Latest on killing of Tacoma police officer Reginald “Jake” Gutierrez

Police: Burglars use real estate agent lockboxes to target West Seattle condo

SEATTLE, Wash — Police are investigating a series of burglaries at a West Seattle condo building, but it’s how the crooks got inside that has taken neighbors by surprise.

Investigators said thieves are stealing real estate agent lockboxes. Once crooks got the key, they had access to nearly every part of the building.

People living at the Alki Bonair condo said the thieves hit at least three times since the beginning of October. Once inside, the crooks had full access to the garage and rifled through several storage units.

“There was a bicycle that was not secured that they walked out with,” said resident Lori Petersen. “I’m just angry so I guess I can only battle it with humor, right?”

Petersen told Seattle police the crooks found a clever way to gain access to the building. First, the thieves stole a real estate agent's lockbox that had been attached to a small metal wire on a fence on the property, but that didn’t deter the crooks.

“One of the real estate lockboxes had been stolen off our fence, and they used bolt cutters to cut the cable,” she said.

“I thought it was a secure garage at first,” said resident Sue Peterson. “Now I can see with the burglaries, we can’t keep anything down here.”

“We hear all kinds of stuff like this,” said locksmith Matt Oliver with Bergman’s Lock and Key. “Often they are broken into or stolen and the keys are already gone before we’re notified.”

Oliver suggests that condos use stronger lockboxes that are built into a wall to keep them from being taken off site.

“They should be mounted securely to the building using tamper-proof screws,” he said.

The condo now keeps the lockboxes around a sturdy bicycle lock; they are no longer being secured to the small metal wire. Neighbors hope the changes will be enough to keep crooks from coming back.

“It feels like an invasion of privacy and I’m kind of scared about seeing anybody in the garage,” said Sue Peterson.

“I feel violated,” Lori added. “These people just come in and take what they want.”

Condo managers said they spent hundreds of dollars to re-key the entire building after the burglaries. Security cameras have also been upgraded to help deter thieves.