Victoria police probe robberies linked to stolen fire department key

Victoria fire department officials say no key is missing

Victoria police believe a master key that can fit into lockboxes at the entrances to more than 500 buildings in Victoria - similar to the one held by Const. Mike Russell - was stolen from the Victoria Fire Department. Police say it may explain a recent spike in break-ins.

A master key that investigators believe was stolen from the Victoria Fire Department may account for a spike in the number of business break-ins since early January.

It wasn’t until Monday, after numerous offices at a medical building at 1990 Fort St. were robbed of medical and computer equipment over the weekend, that Victoria police determined a fire department master key was used to gain entry.

The fire department was told about the breach on Monday. Since then, fire officials have accounted for all 25 master keys currently in service. Twelve other keys, made in the same batch in 2003, were previously ordered destroyed.

“I know that they were signed off and taken to the mechanic’s shop and destroyed,” said Victoria Fire Chief Jeff Lambert.

Regardless, fire crews worked around the clock Monday and Tuesday, re-keying cylinder lockboxes at about 530 commercial, office and residential buildings in Victoria. “All hands on duty for this one,” said Lambert. “We have to protect the security of that system.”

With a master key, the fire department, B.C. Hydro and telecommunications companies can access metal or electronic keys inside lockboxes and enter buildings.

“I’ve been told by my inspectors it’s a real anomaly to have access to everything in the building,” Lambert said.

The master key “mishap” could result in changes at the department, he said.

“I want to review our policy on how we store the keys and make sure we are completely up to date in our inventory of keys,” Lambert said, adding the department will also work with property owners to ensure the lockbox system is secure.

Police continue to investigate the weekend theft of eight computer hard drives, two laptop computers and several small items such as stethoscopes from the Fort Street medical building.

While in the area on Sunday, police arrested a 40-year-old Victoria man, known for committing property crimes. He is being held in custody on unrelated warrants, but is considered a person of interest in the master key case.

Acting on information they received, police recovered six hard drives and a few hand-held devices at an undisclosed location. Two hard drives and the laptops are still missing.

Police are also waiting to hear from medical office staff as to whether the stolen hardware contains personal information such as patient records, Russell said.

With the newfound knowledge that thieves have a master key, police investigators plan to review a string of recent unsolved robberies.

“We’ve been trying to put our finger on it, not knowing exactly what has been causing this increase (in commercial break-and-enters),” Russell said. “But really, it would have been helpful to know when (the key) went missing to be able to sort out that timeline.”

emccracken@vicnews.com

Just Posted

Vancouver measles outbreak prompts vaccine vigilance on Island

Island health authorities push measles vaccinations - and not just for kids

Watershed concerns prompt opposition to alternate Malahat routes

Motion submitted to Regional Water Supply Commission opposing highway in watershed

UPDATED: Langford homes evacuated after water main break

Break at the corner of Goldstream Avenue and Strathmore Road, several homes without water

Remembering Nirvana in Victoria on Cobain’s 52 birthday

Nirvana played one show in Victoria on March 8, 1991 at the Forge

Head-on collision in Saanich draws attention to rural road safety

Saanich says additional road safety measures are already planned or underway

‘Riya was a dreamer’: Mother of slain 11-year-old Ontario girl heartbroken

Her father, Roopesh Rajkumar, 41, was arrested some 130 kilometres away

Greater Victoria Wanted List for the week of Feb. 19

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Market volatility, mortgages loom over upcoming earnings of Canada’s big banks

Central bank interest hikes have padded the banks’ net interest margins

Hearings into SNC-Lavalin affair start today, but not with Wilson-Raybould

She has repeatedly cited solicitor-client privilege to refuse all comment

VIDEO: 8 things you need to know about the 2019 B.C. budget

Surplus of $247 million with spending on children, affordability and infrastructure

Tilray to acquire hemp food company Manitoba Harvest for up to $419 million

Tilray will pay $150 million in cash and $127.5 million in stock.

Tears, flowers at impromptu memorial for Syrian children killed in Halifax fire

The family had only lived in the Quartz Drive home for a few months

NDP candidates push for stronger climate action as Singh supports LNG Canada

Singh has tried to project unity in the party while facing internal criticism for poor fundraising and low support in the polls

‘Bullet missed me by an inch’: Man recounts friend’s killing at Kamloops hotel

Penticton man witnessed Summerland resident Rex Gill’s murder in Kamloops

Most Read