Q&A: Karl Kretsch, University of Scranton

As access control supervisor/locksmith for the University of Scranton in Scranton , Penn. , Karl Kretsch is responsible for making sure the right university employees have the right access to nearly 7,000 doors in 70 buildings. Scranton is a...

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Is it possible to describe a typical day in the life of a university locksmith?

A typical day starts with me seeing what's happening in our work order system; that's the stuff people have requested and has been approved. That can be anything from someone losing the key to a desk lock to a major issue like dormitory vandalism. So first I check on what's immediate.

I'm also the person who's responsible for the direction we're going in terms of locks and hardware. We're building a $30 million student center right now and my job is to prepare for that. Not long before I came to the university, we changed our standard spec to “university will provide cores and cylinders” and that was a big change from the way we did things and it allowed me to have more control.

How would it have been done before that change?

A pretty loose spec would be written and it would slowly tighten as things developed. The first job I got involved in here simply said the hardware must support Best-type core. They satisfied the requirement with some Grade 2 stuff but it certainly wasn't what we needed. I keep an eye on things like that. I'm looking at what goes in when we're having door problems, looking at door manufacturers, door construction.

What about plain old security, especially in light of things that have been in the news lately? How has what happened in Virginia affected the way security is approached here now?

It has had an effect although at this institution I do spend time checking my perimeters and do often go home at night telling myself that the perimeters are secure. I also have a Public Safety staff here 24 hours that can notify me when needed. In the wake of what happened at Virginia Tech, we are looking at what we can do better and we proceed along those lines. One thing I've learned from that is how important it is to have good communication with your students and faculty.

Who directs that communication?

Communication between Public Safety, the locksmith and the students and staff. We may advertise to them that security is as much their responsibility as ours; we try to make it a cooperative effort. The biggest task for me is to get the kids to understand that this is a partnership and I can keep you safe with your help.

That seems like quite a task. How do you go about doing it?

Reminders. I'm very communicative with everyone here. I have a yearly meeting with the office of Residential Life and talk to all the RAs about the fact that these aren't just stupid rules. Often I have to share a horror story or two to get people to buy into the program. It's simply vigilance; getting the RAs to understand that if you see a door propped, just kick it shut.

I don't see that as any different from the average ‘mom and pop' locksmith who needs to remind his customer to use the deadbolt he just installed. Most homeowners will tell you, until crime starts happening, they don't even lock their door. It's just a matter of awareness. Luckily I'm dealing with kids and I enjoy playing this role here. As a locksmith in the past, I didn't always enjoy trying to make my customers smarter a few years ago. Here it's part of my mission.

Doesn't a certain amount of knowledge and wisdom naturally come with living and having more years behind you?

Absolutely! Call it horror stories, call it wisdom, there is a certain amount of expertise develops whether it's from reading trade magazines or just day to day experience. Educating your customers should be the mission of every lock shop whether you're in a small town servicing AAA accounts or sitting in a university managing what happens there. Here that's part of my mission. I'm not wasting time making these kids smarter; that's my goal here.

Let's talk about particular trends or the direction you see things here going in.

Certainly electrification of openings is always being pondered here. It's absolutely prevalent regarding the entrances to our buildings and then in a fewer of the higher security areas. When I say electrification, I'm also referring to monitoring that's becoming more important.

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