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Bump Keys and Gun Turrets

Earlier this summer I learned an important lesson… the hard way. I’ll get to that story and what I learned about something called a “bump key” in a minute. First I need to give you a little background.

About 8 years ago I moved into a brand new house. I was actually involved during the building process so I had the opportunity to choose fixtures, upgrades, room layouts, etc. It was (and still is) my first house so I was really excited about the whole process. It was a great feeling when I could finally move in and call it my own (well, mine and the bank’s – but they don’t get to spend the night).

During the building process I was frequently reminded that not everyone shares my passion for details. I could write a book of blog posts about the shoddy work the builders left behind, but that’ll be for another time. The point is that as beautiful as my house is, and as much as it feels like home – there were serious flaws left behind because someone didn’t care about doing their job as much as I care about doing mine.

For example I would have spent the extra money to use treated lumber on the porch – that way it didn’t start rotting out in the first 12 months. That was a pretty big one, but there were lots of little things too. Somethings you don’t discover right away either because it takes time for bad materials or bad workmanship to show up. Rather than just being bitter (which I am a little bit) about the bad work done on my house – it actually made me feel really grateful.

I know that may sound weird, but its true. I’m grateful for being raised differently than that.  I learned growing up that whatever I was doing I owed it to myself and to those around me to do the best job I possibly could. From my schoolwork, to sports, to… heck, even raking the leaves. If I was going to spend any time doing it – then I should put my best Anthony Codispoti Seal of Approval on it.

Its definitely a mindset that I’ve carried through to my work. I mean I could’ve wrapped up any old green tea and put it out there. But then there’s nothing special about that. That’s what most people are doing. So I took the extra time and spent the extra money to test samples from all over the world so I could be proud of the product that I’m offering not only to my friends and family, but to trusting customers around the world that I’ve never met face to face. Thanks for teaching me to think like that Mom, Dad, and grandparents.

Now on to the important lesson that I learned this summer. It was sometime in May – I remember because we had just gotten married. My wife left for work in the morning (yeah, it still feels a little weird to say “my wife”) to go to work. She got to the garage but noticed something odd, so came back to the house to ask me about it. “Anthony, where is my bike? Its not in the garage. Did you move it while you were cleaning?” No I did not… DOH!

Then we both had that sinking feeling that goes along with the realization of being robbed. It is a lousy feeling. To know someone has been in your space, and has taken from you what they had no right to – its really frustrating. If its never happened to you, I hope you never have to experience that feeling of betrayal. Betrayal from your fellow man.

But I had to set those feelings aside so I could figure out how this happened. We keep our garage locked all the time, so there must be some sign of forced entry. I put on my Sherlock Holmes hat (figuratively, not literally – I  am told I don’t look very good in hats) and I checked all reasonable points of entry. I couldn’t find any clue as to how they got in. Nothing was broken. Nothing else appeared to be missing. And I didn’t find any chocolate-smudged fingerprints like Encylopedia Brown used to discover. So I started wondering if maybe I temporarily left the garage door up one day while doing some yardwork and someone snuck in real quick? But I think we would’ve noticed it missing earlier than today… Hmmm…. I’m really not sure. I was stumped.

Of course my next move was to call the local police department to report it stolen. I didn’t have any false notions of them sending over their crime lab team to help crack the case of the vanishing bike. I figured there were at least a few thousand crimes more pressing than mine that needed their attention. Nevertheless, its good to have on file just in case. So I reported it, vented a little to the walls, and got back to doing things that mattered.

A few days later my wife left for work in the morning, and quickly returned to the house to say, “Well it happened again. Now MY bike is missing!” I couldn’t believe it. We’d been hit twice – each time they took a single bicycle – so weird. Each time no sign of forced entry. I was stumped. How was he getting in? Uggh – Unless this guy dropped his driver’s license in my garage – he was going to get away with it again. And how did I know he wouldn’t keep coming back and stealing more of our things? How do I make the madness stop?!?

This time I called a security consultant who examined the points of entry and quickly identified the vulnerability. See, our garage is physically separated from the house. So there are doors for cars, and a door for people – the “man door” if you will. There was a small gap between the man door and the door jam that allowed the criminal to easily unlatch the door using a putty knife or credit card. Heck after he showed me how it was done – I could easily do it!

Its something I wouldn’t even have known to look for. But it IS something that anyone who installs doors and the related hardware should’ve spotted right away as being a problem. Someone was in too much of a hurry, or too careless with their work, or just trying to cut corners and as a result my garage was broken into… twice.

Not just my garage – my neighbors’ garages as well. As we began telling our story we learned that 2 other houses right next to us (made at the same time by the same builder) had their garages broken into on the same nights. One of them accidentally walked in on the thief late at night in their garage. Scary! Fortunately nobody was hurt – but it could’ve all been avoided if our doors had been properly constructed. Alright – I get that mistakes are made. A few years ago I made one myself 🙂 But a mistake is if it happens on one door. When it happens on 3 – its just sloppy work. Its actually surprising this hadn’t been an issue up until now when I stopped to think about it.

So we got the gap between our doors fixed, and installed some security cameras for good measure. But here’s perhaps the most interesting part of the entire story. I learned from our security consultant (what? you don’t have your own security consultant? you should get one) that criminals aren’t picking locks like you see on TV any more – (with a couple of little metal toothpick type things). Nope – that takes too long, and requires a bit of skill. Instead they are making use of something called a “bump key”. It looks mostly like a regular key but with some important modifications to it. All the criminal has to do is give a little bump to the back of the key – and the little pins inside the locking mechanism all align properly to allow the door to open. If you want a more detailed explanation http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lock_bumping does a much better job explaining.

I can’t believe I’d never heard about this. How is this not some kind of national news story? The media LOVES to scare us with stuff. So why haven’t they latched on this yet? Anyways, I don’t tend to be overly paranoid, but in light of being robbed twice in a week, I took it as a sign to be a little proactive on this point. So I had my locks replaced with “bump-key resistant” locks, and now turn the burglar alarm on all the time.

Oh, and the gun turret is getting installed next week.