Stolen Locksmith Van Recovered – with all the Equipment Onboard

Oct. 13, 2022
Just 30 hours after the theft, "The Beast" was back in the custody of Albany Lock and Key.

In this day of seemingly endless stories about crime and crime victims, we have good news to share.

Tim Forster’s locksmith shop, Albany Lock and Key in Albany, Oregon, had an incredible 30 hours of lows and highs. When Forster arrived at the shop the morning of Oct. 4, 2022, he immediately noticed that one of the company’s two service vans was missing. The vans typically were parked in front of the shop, in a well-lit strip mall in the center of town. He hoped one of his technicians had an early morning call, but that wasn’t the case.

Forster checked his video surveillance feed and saw a guy break the passenger door lock at 4:01 a.m. and drive off in the white Ford E250 van, clearly marked with the company’s name, logo and contact information. The guy seemed to know the lay of the land (Forster believes he might have cased his business or the entire shopping center in advance) and carefully kept his face covered and out of camera view.

Forster called the local police and handed over a copy of the video, fearing he’d never see his van — or, more important, the $20,000 of equipment inside — again. The police recognized the man in the video as part of a group from Salem, Oregon, that had been stealing commercial vehicles across town.

The next morning, Forster got a call from a manager of a Carl’s Jr restaurant in Kaiser, Oregon, 30 miles north of Albany. The manager spotted the van in her parking lot and was complaining that it had been left there overnight, wanting it removed. She had no idea it had been stolen. Thankfully, she called Albany Lock and Key, instead of having the van towed. Forster called the Kaiser police and got ready to head north.

Fifteen minutes later, the phone rang again, and the Carl’s Jr manager this time reported that a woman had just gotten into the van and driven off. Forster called the Kaiser police again, and they put out an all-points bulletin for the stolen van that had a giant blue key image on the side. Another 15 minutes later, the police in Kaiser stopped the vehicle and arrested the driver. Even better, the key machine, code machine and tools and inventory were all still in the van!

“It was an absolute miracle,” Forster says. “We were all on an incredible high. We got the van back and had it rolling on jobs the next day.”

Because of the high crime rate in Albany and surrounding cities, the vans no longer are stored at the shop. Forster and another employee now take them home with them at night.

However, Forster decided that it’s time to retire the stolen and recovered van, nicknamed “The Beast,” which has served as the main commercial job van for many years and 279,000 miles. The van had been in a collision a week before the theft and has a dent in the side. A replacement van is being outfitted and will include tracking devices and an alarm system, all state-of-the-art, to prevent another such incident.

About the Author

Emily Pike | Managing Editor

Emily Pike is managing editor of Locksmith Ledger International.