‘It’s been more than a month’: NB housing loses master key to hundreds of apartments

NB Housing employees change the locks in a north end neighbourhood in Saint John on Friday. (Roger Cosman/CBC)

NB Housing reported the lost keys on March 22 but keys disappeared Feb. 13, according to police

By Rachel Cave, CBC News Posted: Mar 24, 2017 1:16 PM AT / Last Updated: Mar 24, 2017 7:12 PM AT

NB Housing hurried Friday to replace locks and add security at housing units in Saint John after a set of custodial keys, including a master key capable of opening hundreds of individual apartments, disappeared more than 35 days ago.

Sgt. Charles Breen of the Saint John police said NB Housing reported the lost keys to police on March 22, but they had been missing since Feb. 13. In a later email, Breen clarified that a police report on the keys did not indicate that NB Housing knew they were missing Feb. 13.

The cost of fixing the problem is not known.

CBC News reached out to Lenny England, 54, who was the custodian responsible for the lost keys, but he said he was unable to comment.

Brenda Rathburn, a tenant who was aware for quite a while that the keys were missing, said it was a comfort to see the situation being addressed, but she felt the delay required some explanation.

“I don’t have any apprehension about going to bed at night anymore,” she said. “But I just feel Housing [took] a long time getting around to doing something after they were informed. It’s been more than a month.”

Tenants Receive Updates

The Department of Social Development did not acknowledge there had been a delay. A spokeswoman said the department takes security seriously and it took immediate action after learning about the master key.

Spokeswoman Anne Mooers did not say how many units were affected or where they were located, other than in Saint John.

Tenants received undated notices in their mailbox that informed them a set of keys had been recently lost.

“The safety and security of all our tenants is very important. Therefore, we will be changing the locks on your Public Housing unit as soon as possible,” said the notice.

“Additional security will be placed around all affected buildings until all locks have been changed.”

NB Housing tenants were told they would get 24-hour notice of their locks being changed. (CBC)

Locks changed at Parklea Jail after keys stolen by released inmate

An inmate allegedly stole a set of jail keys as he was being released from a Sydney prison, in an embarrassing security bungle which led to a number of locks having to be changed.

Police were yesterday investigating the December 22 incident at the privately-run Parklea Correctional Centre.

The inmate is alleged to have taken the keys from a staff area as he was being processed for release before walking past guards with them.

Public Service Association Prison Officers branch chairman Steve McMahon slammed the incident as a “rookie mistake” which could cost the state thousands of dollars in replacement locks.

Phoenix Fire Department Loses 850 Keys

The Phoenix Fire Department said Monday it can’t account for hundreds of keys for lock boxes that allow firefighters responding to fires or alarms to enter thousands of businesses and apartment complexes when they are closed.

Deputy Chief David Carter blamed poor record keeping over the past 15 years for the missing 850 keys but said there’s no indication they have been used for criminal purposes.

“Our accountability isn’t the best here,” he said.

Some of the missing keys may have been damaged and replaced and others may have been changed hands when firefighters retired, Carter said.

Loss of master keys costs college $500K

The struggle is real at the College of William and Mary.

According to a Jan. 26 report by the college’s student newspaper, The Flat Hat, the college will have to pay more than $500,000 to replace keys and lock cores in numerous campus buildings after its set of master keys went missing last semester.

The keys gave William and Mary employees access to a number of campus buildings, including Greek houses and all residence halls except one. For security reasons, the Department of Facilities Management has started replacing 3,000 lock cores in affected dorms this semester, The Flat Hat reports