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Detectives say weak elevator key boxes behind Capitol Hill apartment burglaries

CHS has been sent an East Precinct bulletin about a discovery made by SPD burglary detectives that reveals that weak elevator key boxes are making the work of area burglars all too easy. Details on the key boxes the East Precinct is now recommending be replaced with stronger types and one particularly prolific burglar who police say used the technique to commit 500 burglaries across the city, below.

In December, you might recall, CHS reported on the apprehension of a juvenile burglary suspect busted with a massive ring of keys. No word yet if that bust was related to this bulletin.

Detectives Steve Kaffer and Theresa Emerick learned that a suspect (one of a group of 12) was alone responsible for 500 burglaries city-wide (100 have since been cleared) using the below described technique for accessing master keys to apartment buildings.The suspects are finding it easy to get into the “emergency use only” red key boxes that are used by the city elevator inspectors.  The boxes are easily breached using a screw driver or small pry bar.  Below are two boxes broken into from Capitol Hill:        

    After speaking with the city elevator inspectors and supervisors they agreed the box currently being used does not properly secure the keys needed for elevator inspections.  Additionally, property owner need to be educated to leave only the elevator and/or utility room access keys inside the box and not the master keys to the building.An elevator box currently being considered for securing the keys is the Knox-Box 1400 series Elevator Box in both standard and mini sizes.  The box comes in three different colors with red limited to fire department use and the colors of bronze or aluminum to accommodate other uses such as the elevator inspections.          


Suspects shared [details] of removing a Knox-Box from the wall, taking the box to a different location and after 45 minutes of trying were unable to get into the box and gave up trying.The modus operandi of this burglary style can be curtailed with city departments using a secured key box of the Knox-Box style along with both city inspectors and patrol officers educating apartment building owners/managers not to place “master keys” in the boxes and only specific elevator/utility room keys.

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12 thoughts on “Detectives say weak elevator key boxes behind Capitol Hill apartment burglaries” -- All CHS Comments are held for moderation before publishing

  1. Had a break-in several weeks ago. Not only did the guys tear the hell out of the door on the building to get in, their next stop was to pry open the elevator box. To this day I don’t know if anything was in it other than the tool to open the door and inspect the car top and/or pit.

    Hopefully folks realize that any building that leaves a master key in such an easily accessed space is legally liable for any damages to or theft of property belonging to tenants.

  2. not worrying about a couple of artists putting up posters of their artwork on Capitol Hill! Especially when they don’t apply the same rules to the Seattle Art Museum who hires Poster Giant to do the exact same things that these Alternative/Urban Artists have been doing for years! How long before little, old ladies won’t be allowed to put up announcements that “Fluffy” has gone missing–

  3. It seems like publicizing this just told a whole bunch of crooks how to capitalize on security weaknesses. Property owners, run out and buy the news boxes, quick!

  4. As a property owner, we were required to put up these inferior boxes by the City of Seattle Elevator Inspectors. They also wanted access to areas in the building, which if you have one key, meant a master key. Now they want us to change out the boxes that cost us $250 each for something that will cost us a lot more ~$400? City of Seattle and Nyberg Locksmith gave of these piece of S*** boxes, I think they should replace all of them all for free because fo their ignorance. Otherwise all buildings will be at risk! The Fire Department already has knox boxes, why do we need more boxes just for elevator inspectors? This is always going to be another way for criminals to access building security! I say no more stupid key boxes are needed!

  5. What the story doesn’t tell you and I really want to clarify is that the City of Seattle contracted with Nyberg Locksmith a long time ago to provide “security” lock boxes upgrading the “barrel” key type elevator lockboxes which were even easier to break in to (another joke). There is no need for multiple key boxes on a building, Fire Dept knox boxes are quite adequate!

  6. It may be true the City required a separate box for the elevator, but nobody told you as a building owner to use a master key in the box too. Do the rest of us have to live in danger of intrusion because you CHOSE to put a master key in the box? Do we have to think for you too?

  7. Sorry Tom, The City Inspectors required all access, hence the 500 burglaries. The boxes are only a City requirement, not a State requirement and should go away.

  8. Sorry Tom, The City Inspectors required all access, hence the 500 burglaries. The boxes are only a City requirement, not a State requirement and should go away.
    (sorry, posted above)

  9. No Box. You are correct, but not for long. The Intenational Fire Code now had language making these boxes mandatory. The National Association of State Fire Marshals is also pushing it at each individual state level too. I know it may not seem important, but the loss of life on 9/11 mandates these changes. Additionally, I dare you to mount one of these boxes properly and break into it.