By Alex Halverson
Western was forced to rekey buildings after multiple sets of keys were lost in early 2016, according to a public record request filed by The Western Front.
In February 2016, 22 university keys to various buildings were lost, prompting an expedited rekeying process of buildings across campus mid-quarter, University Director of Communications Paul Cocke said in an email.
In an unrelated incident during the rekeying process, approximately 121 keys to Birnam Wood stacks 2-5 and a tub of keys for guest housing in stack one were stolen from a cabinet on July 26, 2016, according to a report from the University Police Department and an email sent to Birnam Wood residents.
“Because of that, Birnam Wood was rekeyed a second time as a security measure,” Cocke said.
Western’s 2017-2018 budget request calls for $7.2 million for access control security upgrades, which include rekeying projects. The cost to replace the keys in Birnam Wood was estimated at an additional $5,050 from the original allocated budget for the rekeying, according to the University Police report.
“If someone found the keys and had bad intentions they would not know what the keys went to or were for.”
An unnamed janitor notified University Police of a cabinet in the Birnam Wood Community Building, that was usually locked, was open on the morning of July 26. The keys were kept in a plastic tub which was missing, according to the police report. There were no signs of forced entry to the cabinet.
On Aug. 25, the plastic tub containing keys for Birnam Wood stack one was found in the 1400 block of Nevada street. The only person of interest was a woman spotted sleeping in the Birnam Wood community building the night before the keys were reported stolen, according to the University Police report. No arrests were made following the report.
The first 22 keys went missing when a member of Western’s staff misplaced her keyring, according to the University Police report filed on Feb. 11, 2016. Rekeying exterior doors had been part of Western’s ten-year-plan since 2014, but was implemented nearly three months ahead of schedule after the keyring was lost, according to an email from Western’s Facilities Management.
While the keyring was never found, Western officials decided not to publicize information about the incident because the keys showed no physical indication they were Western property, Cocke said.
“If someone found the keys and had bad intentions they would not know what the keys went to or were for,” Cocke said. “This is especially important considering the lost keys could open a number of doors to buildings on campus.”
After the July incident, keys to the front door of a resident director’s apartment went missing in August, according to an email from a separate resident director to Facilities Management.
At the time the email was sent, the resident director stated the locks had been “compromised” for several days, according to the email.
Rachelle Spencer, senior and Birnam Wood resident, said when the buildings were first rekeyed in the spring, residents were told it was a lock system update.
“They just sent an email to all of us warning about the locks being updated because of keys going missing in July,” Spencer said. “There were also follow up emails with more information telling us when we could get our new keys if we needed them.”
During Birnam Wood’s first rekeying, all seven buildings had both interior and exterior doors rekeyed. After the keys were stolen in the summer, only some interior doors were rekeyed, while all exterior doors were, according to an email sent to Birnam Wood residents.