Shaffer: Police inundated with lock-out calls
by Robert Joseph Baker | January 28, 2015 4:23 am
Last Updated: January 27, 2015 at 11:26 pm
The Manning Police Department received 300 calls in 2014 from residents or visitors seeking to have their cars unlocked, and Manning Police Chief Blair Shaffer is saying it’s time to stop the practice, except for emergencies.
“One area that we’ve seen a huge increase (in calls in the last year) is in these calls to unlock people’s cars when they’ve locked their keys in the car,” Shaffer said. “Last year, we got more than 300 calls, and some people are calling multiple times and, frankly, taking advantage of our officers.”
Shaffer said some residents have called as many as 20 times in one year.
“It’s been increasing over the years, because people knew this was a service we provided,” Shaffer said. “In 2013, I started talking to our officers, and they began telling me of people who are locking their keys in their cars on purpose because they don’t want to lose them if they go in the grocery store or in Walmart.”
When the resident is ready to go home, Shaffer said he then calls police to unlock the car.
“We have residents that will go outside in the morning and warm their cars up, lock the door and then go inside,” Shaffer said. “When they’re ready to go, they call us to unlock their vehicles.”
Shaffer told council members that local locksmiths have also voiced concerns about the practice.
“In particular with these folks who call us multiple times, more than five and six times a year, the locksmiths are saying that’s money out of their pockets,” Shaffer said. “They have businesses, and they pay taxes to the city.”
Shaffer said his officers will begin phasing out the practice starting in the spring. He said they will continue to unlock cars for emergencies.
“If it’s really cold or really hot outside, we will help out if it’s not an all-the-time thing,” he said after the council meeting. “And if there’s a child or animal locked inside a hot or cold car, we’re going to help out. In those situations, we will even break the windows if we need to.”
He said the 300 calls in 2014 equaled “about 6,000 minutes or 100 man-hours.”
“I have my officers write a report for every call, so it takes about 20 minutes to unlock the vehicle and then write the report,” Shaffer said. “If you look at what our officers make on average, you’re talking about $1,500 to $2,000 just for unlocking vehicles.”
He said unlocking the vehicles can also lead to liability issues.
“It hasn’t happened yet where we’ve damaged a vehicle and someone has wanted us to pay for it,” Shaffer said. “And I don’t want it to get to that point. Some of these newer cars with the side air bags, if we trip a sensor and those come out, it’s very expensive to pay for those to be replaced or put back in. And we’re liable for that damage.”