Not So Easy Money

Dec. 13, 2010

During my locksmithing days I occasionally worked for the government when they were exercising an eviction. Foreclosure was a term I never heard until recently, but the routine was the same when a tenant did not pay their rent. After the owner got court permission, a work force of several men would descend on the apartment and they would physically break into the apartment or home. Furniture and possessions were removed and a large sticker was affixed to the door indicating that it was illegal to enter. It was my job to install a good hasp and padlock on the door. There was no effort to be neat. The whole idea was to visually indicate to the former tenant that they were not longer on the premises. Although it was a sad event each time, the tenants had been repeatedly warned and the owners were completely within their rights.

While tenant evictions were few and far between, foreclosures now number in the millions with possibly more residential and commercial properties still forecast to be involved in the next few years. Some locksmiths have discovered good profit by unlocking doors on foreclosure property and changing lock combinations. A more genteel system than the broken jambs I once saw on a regular basis.

At the same time, a locksmith kneeling down and picking a lock is in a defenseless position if there is an angry inhabitant behind the door. This was the case in Miami a few weeks ago when a policeman stood by as a maintenance man worked to unlock a door to a condominium apartment.

The eviction ended in tragedy as the apartment dweller finally unlocked the door from inside and fired several shots at the maintenance man.  The maintenance man was killed and the policeman then returned fire and wounded the assailant. Various news stories describe the maintenance man as a locksmith, while other reports state that he was a day laborer working for the building management.

Regardless of whether the person killed was a practicing locksmith or not, the same situation could occur each time a legitimate locksmith is called on a similar foreclosure situation to unlock a door.

In my locksmith career I was called hundreds of times during every hour of the day and night for lockouts of all kinds. Either I was overly fortunate or extremely cautious, but there were times when I was 'unavailable' whenever the situation seemed out of the ordinary.

I do not miss the extra service call money I might have made and I am still here to enjoy life and talk about it