Master, Duplicate Key Law Would Increase Accountability - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Master, Duplicate Key Law Would Increase Accountability

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KENNEWICK, Wash. - A bill going through the state legislature that came about because of a brutal attack and rape here in the Tri-Cities has passed the State House. It calls for stricter accountability at apartment complexes when it comes to a master key.

Master keys are a thing of the past at the Clearwater Square Apartments. For almost a year they've been phasing out the old locks and putting new ones in. But earlier this year the master key they did have was stolen and that led to some trouble.

"We started seeing immediately over the next couple days at least a half dozen break-ins which were non-forced entry, which indicated that they key was possibly used in the commission of those thefts," said Crime Prevention Specialist Mike Blatman.

The man accused of the crimes was caught and the case was sent to the prosecutor's office to file charges. 

New management at the complex have been working to get rid of the master key system for about a year.

"We were under the plan of having the whole complex done, but we had an incident one day where we couldn't verify what had happened and so from that day, we wiped out the neighborhood's supply of all their locks," said Tim Lewis who works in maintenance at the Clearwater Square Apartments.

Unfortunately not all of the locks were done when this incident happened.

"A lot of apartments, the master key is too accessible to the staff and sometimes even to the public. We need to restrict it only to those people who should have the needed access," said 8th District Representative Larry Haler.

Haler co-sponsored a bill in the state house, which passed, that calls for any master or duplicate key to be safeguarded with the utmost care. At Clearwater Square, they're doing that now.

"If a key is checked out of the establishment, everybody has a nametag that is put in the position where the key was removed from so there's accountability," said Lewis.

The bill is now going through the Senate for approval and Representative Haler said are two additions. He said complexes would be required to change all the locks if something like this happens and notify all of their tenants. 

The staff at the Clearwater Square Apartments changed all of their locks to double locks, of their own accord.