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Thursday, December 6, 2012

T F Stern's Rantings: Texas Unlicensed Locksmiths Arrested

T F Stern's Rantings: Texas Unlicensed Locksmiths Arrested: I got my June issue of The National Locksmith and read Marc Goldberg’s article which starts off, “The state of Texas has just begun a major ...

T F Stern's Rantings: Presumption of Guilt

T F Stern's Rantings: Presumption of Guilt: It used to be that you were presumed innocent until proven guilty; at least that’s the way it was for most of my life.  Apparently tha...

T F Stern's Rantings: Business Licenses - Jump for Joy

T F Stern's Rantings: Business Licenses - Jump for Joy: I have to give a tip of the hat to Unrepentant Individual’s blog on licensing . His article reminded me of a letter I sent to the Texas Pr...

T F Stern's Rantings: Texas Locksmith License Requirements

T F Stern's Rantings: Texas Locksmith License Requirements: Here’s a copy of a letter I sent off to the DPS/PSB which will decide whether or not I remain a card carrying licensed locksmith when it com...

T F Stern's Rantings: DPS/PSB Locksmiths License – Follow up

T F Stern's Rantings: DPS/PSB Locksmiths License – Follow up: June 15, 2007 Representative Debbie Riddle

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Purple Heart Recipient Locked Out of Profession by Locksmith Licensing Law

By Barry Campbell, Managing Director SOPL

Kerrville Texas, Kerr County Texas 2012 - 

Texas locksmith, Elvis Hernandez, had been working as a locksmith for about 10 years before being deployed to the Middle East to serve 
a 4-year stint in the Iraq War. This U.S. Army combat veteran, who had been awarded the ultimate symbol of sacrifice - a Purple Heart and an Honorable Discharge, returned home to the challenge of rebuilding his business and serving his community. 

Mr. Hernandez has the additional challenge of being a single father, but he also has the support of many others in the locksmithing community in the San Antonio area, recently being named to the Board of the San Antonio Locksmith Association and having a positive employment history with IDN Acme, a locksmith distributor.

Given his military service and the respect and praise given him by his friends, former employers, and co-workers; it is no surprise that Elvis Hernandez has a strong sense of civic duty. But it is equally a shame that his sense of compassion and concern for others has led to him being barred from practicing as a professional locksmith.

Late this last spring, on the way to a job, he saw a small dog wandering loose on a highway where speeding cars were passing. He stopped to rescue the dog, which had no collar, leash, or identification and at risk of becoming roadkill. 

He asked his customer if they knew who the owner of the dog was. When the job was completed, he left his contact information with the customer who lived in the area in case the owner came looking for the dog. Mr. Hernandez cared for the dog briefly, but had to give the dog to a relative because the lost dog did not get along with a dog he already owned. That was not permanent either, but at least the dog was not left to roam along a highway in harms way.

Months later, Mr. Hernandez received a call from the customer, who had eventually heard from the alleged owner of the dog. At this point, Mr. Hernandez was no longer aware of the location of the stray dog he had rescued. Subsequently, he was contacted by the owners of a lost dog, then by the Kerr County Sheriff. The now-irate owner has decided to press property theft charges against Hernandez, who has since been arrested on the misdemeanor charge and had to be fingerprinted, have a mug shot taken, and spend over 24 hours in jail, before being released on bond, pending trial.

The whole story sounds ridiculous enough at this point – a negligent owner charging a good Samaritan with theft of their dog without any evidence that the rescued dog was, in fact, their lost dog; and the arrest and pending prosecution for property theft, months after the fact, of someone who left their contact information in the hope of reuniting the owner with their dog. Thieves don't do that!

But things have become much worse for Mr. Hernandez. Nothing less than a tragedy, he has been barred from practicing his chosen profession. Because he has been charged with a crime, his locksmith license has been summarily suspended by the State of Texas Department of Public Safety. His business has been effectively shut down. 

His friends in the locksmith community are barred from employing his skills as a locksmith. The damage being done to Mr. Hernandez's reputation is not the result of the actions of a negligent dog owner; it is not the result of what has every characteristic of overzealous law enforcement and malicious prosecution; it is purely and simply the result of the locksmith licensing law. 

What would have been a bump in the road of his life has become a complete roadblock. Even if the charges are dropped or he is acquitted, it could easily take months for him to regain his license, under the locksmith licensing law.

As bad as the other circumstances have been, the effects of the locksmith licensing law has been devastating. He could run for Mayor, Governor, or even President of the United States, but he can't work as a locksmith simply because of the locksmith licensing law

Those who have supported such laws should be ashamed at their results. Supposedly, these laws were enacted to put scammers out of business, but how many of them have been prosecuted under the locksmith licensing laws? As he served our country, Mr. Hernandez probably felt that he was supporting certain ideals, such as innocent until proven guilty. Little did he know that he would be presumed guilty until proven innocent by laws purporting to protect the industry he worked in. 

Ironically, Mr. Hernandez said that he supported the initial efforts to license locksmiths in Texas, though he felt that the moneyed interests supporting licensing laws created a system far different than what the local locksmiths had envisioned. 

This should serve as a warning to those who think there is any merit to government interference and regulation of the industry. It is reprehensible and inexcusable that a decorated war veteran should become a victim, collateral damage, in the supposed war against locksmith scammers.

See Purple Heart Recipient Victimized by Locksmith Licensing Law

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

When a lock problem is not a lock problem

There are things that can interfere with the correct operation of a lock that have nothing to do with the lock itself. A couple of the most common are poorly cut duplicate keys and sagging doors.

Duplicate Keys : Hardware store key duplication machines are often not adjusted correctly. A few thousandths of an inch can make the difference whether a key will work or not. It is difficult for a customer to tell if the depth of cut is correct without using a micrometer to compare an original to a duplicate key. However, it is often very easy to detect improper spacing on a duplicate key. If a key won't turn when fully inserted into the lock, but will turn if the key is pulled out slightly, you have a miscut key - the spacing is off. But the quickest way to detect a spacing error is to look at the tip of the key. The ramp at the tip end of the key should be smooth. If it looks like a small notch is cut into the key on that front ramp section, it is likely the spacing is off.

If you look closely at the key in the picture on the left, you will see a small notch cut into the angled ramp section at the tip of the key - a good sign that the key duplicating machine is not properly adjusted, and that the key will not work properly, if at all. This is a very, very common problem.

And, yes, we have had a couple customers call us back after we have serviced a lock, claiming the lock was no longer working. Sure enough, they'll hand us a key duplicated at a local hardware, like the one in the photo. Better to pay us for all the copies of the keys you need when we service the lock than to pay us for a second service call when your hardware store copies don't work!

Sagging Doors : Many times, what seems like a lock problem is actually a door problem. A new lock will not fix a door problem, at least not permanently. First, make sure all hinge screws have been installed. Most hinges are designed to be installed with four screws fastening the hinge to the door and four screws fastening the hinge to the jamb. It's amazing how many times we have found hinges installed with as few as two screws on each side, even in newly constructed homes. Second, remove a couple screws from the hinge side. They should be at least 1-1/2 inches long, preferably 3 inches to secure the hinge to the wall framing surrounding the door opening. Don't be surprised, though, if you find 3/4 inch screws. Replace these with longer screws, and make sure all screws are tight. You'll often find that the short screws have stripped the wood and will continue to turn without tightening. Inadequate hinge installation allows the door to sag, and the locks will no longer be aligned correctly with the strikes. Also, look at the gap between the door and the jamb on all sides. The gap should be consistent, not wider at the top than at the bottom. A proper gap is approximately 1/8 inch on all sides.

Take a look at the strike in the photograph on the right. You can see the wear from the latch is very near the bottom of the strike opening. The quick fix would be to move the strike lower on the jamb so that it better aligns with the lock. But if the actual cause of the problem is a sagging door, the problem will repeat in time. Secure the door hinges first. Adjust the strike location only if it is still out of alignment.

Altic Lock Service recommends installing the Door Devil reinforcement kit on all doors. Part of the kit includes the longer hinge attachment screws to tie the hinges into the wall framing. This, alone, will often correct strike alignment problems.

Remember that most locksmiths can address most door hardware issues, not just locks; but also keep in mind that not all lock problems are caused by the lock!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Electronic Locks

The UK Daily Mail reports on an "electronic lockpick" that will easily bypass hotel cardkey-style locks. It is designed to look like nothing more conspicuous than a dry erase marker. Apparently, there are some 4 million locks out there, susceptible to this particular bypass technique.

Most electronic locks have a mechanical key override, so they share the very same vulnerabilities as the basic pin tumbler lock used on virtually all homes and businesses. When electronic systems are used in addition to the mechanical systems, they may be adding their own vulnerabilities. In this particular case, electronic locks are even more easily bypassed than the mechanical ones. This is not the only time a bypass technique has been discovered that will bypass an electronic lock.

Recently, electronic locks operable with remote controls or via smart phones have become available. Convenience is the greatest feature to these systems - not security. Keep this in mind when contemplating the purchase of an electronic locking system.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Lower Service Call for Greenwood, IN customers

We've moved. Our coverage area remains the same, but we now offer a lower service call charge for our customers in Greenwood, Indiana - starting at just $35 during regular business hours.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

CAL Double-Bolt Lock for Sliding Doors

Altic Lock Service recommends the CAL lock for sliding doors. Sliding doors have always been a security weak point. Most integral locks cannot withstand much prying force and, unless additional steps are taken during installation, the doors can be lifted out of their tracks and removed. The CAL lock solves both problems.

The main parts are the lock body, the cover plate, the strike, and the spacers.

The interlocking design of the CAL Double-Bolt Lock resists both prying and lifting. With clean, unobtrusive lines, The CAL lock will greatly increase the security of your home.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Door Devil (tm) Installation

Altic Lock Service highly recommends the Door Devil (tm) Security Kit. The best locks will not prevent a forced entry if the door jamb fails. Jamb reinforcement, alone, will not prevent forced entry if the door edge fails. With the lock-side of the door reinforced, the last vulnerable area is the hinge-side of the door - the Door Devil package covers that as well. With decent locks (in other words, not the vanity locks offered by the home improvement stores) and proper reinforcement of the weak areas of the door, the door and will will act as a single unit - deterring all but the most persistent criminals. Burglars prefer an easy target. Don't be easy prey!

The following photos are of a recent installation. The door was located at the back of the house, leading into the garage. It's location offered ideal seclusion for would-be thieves.The door had been recently installed and had all the weaknesses of the typical pre-hung door installation. The lock strikes and hinges were all mounted with 3/4" screws, meaning they were attached to only soft wood trim pieces, not to the wall framing of the home.

The Door Devil includes a 4 foot length of 16 gauge steel, a door edge shield, two hinge-jamb posts, 3-1/2" mounting screws for the jamb reinforcement, three 3" screws to replace existing hinge screws, and plates to reinforce the jamb at the hinge posts. The parts are powder-coated white, but can be painted if desired.

Existing Unreinforced Door

Jamb reinforcement installed
View from inside
Door shield installed

Door shield as viewed from outside

Hinge posts installed

Hinge post and plate
Reinforced door as viewed from outside
Finished interior view

When finished, there is little visible evidence of the amount of reinforcement that has been added to the door, yet with 3 and 3-1/2" screws tying the hinges and jamb reinforcement to the structural wall framing and the door edge protected at the deadbolt, the door and wall will act as a virtual single unit, greatly reducing the chance that anyone can force the door; greatly reducing the chance of anyone violating the sanctity of your home.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Door Edge Reinforcement

To get the most out of your deadbolt locks, Altic Lock Service recommends the use of reinforced strike plates or door jamb reinforcement since most successful break-ins are a result of jamb failure. When the strike or jamb is reinforced, the next weakest point is the door edge where the bolt passes through. Keep in mind that most properly installed deadbolts will extend 1 inch from the edge of the door.

What you can't see is that the actual bolt is only about 1-1/2 inches long. When extended, more of the bolt is beyond the door than what remains in the door.

Exterior doors are commonly 1-3/4 inches thick, with a 1 inch hole drilled for the bolt. That leaves only 3/8 of an inch of material on either side of the bolt. Between the lock body and the bolt, there is only a hollow tube and the linkage connecting the bolt. Reinforcing this area is vital to protecting against forced entry. The jamb should be reinforced first, but don't ignore the vulnerability of the door edge. With the reinforcement shown below, the area is protected and the door edge is far less likely to split, as often happens during forced entry attempts.

Altic Lock Service currently provides a complete door protection package, which includes jamb, door edge, and hinge reinforcement. Optional savings are also available on door viewers and a sliding door deadbolt when you purchase the package. Package price available for a limited time only.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

A Deadbolt is a Deadbolt is... NOT!

Not all deadbolts are created equally. Far from it, actually. In past posts, we have noted how cheap lock cylinders are secured to the lock body, and the questionable new lock designs being sold in the home improvement stores. This time, we'll take a quick look at the construction of the actual bolt from a common deadbolt compared to the bolt from the Arrow deadbolts we recommend.
The deadbolt shown at the top of the first photo is from an Arrow brand lock. The deadbolt on the bottom is from a Kwikset brand lock. Both are designed for the same 2-3/4 inch backset. Both have bolts designed to extend 1 inch. The first thing to note is that the Arrow deadbolt weighed 4.8 ounces, the Kwikset only 3.2 ounces, suggesting far heavier duty construction.

Neither of these deadbolts are designed to be disassembled or repaired (in case of failure, the whole deadbolt assembly would be replaced), but we disassembled them anyway.
The photo above shows the disassembled Kwikset deadbolt. It took about a minute to pry it apart. The actual bolt is the round part, standing on its end, on the bottom left. Yes, that is a big, square hole in it - it is virtually hollow.

The photo below shows the disassembled Arrow deadbolt. It took about 15 minutes to get it apart, and not without considerably more force than it took to break down the Kwikset deadbolt. You will note that its bolt has a smaller round hollowed-out section, but inside the cavity is a hardened rod designed to prevent someone from sawing through the bolt.

Finally, we compared the weights of the actual bolt sections. The Arrow bolt weighed 2.6 ounces, the Kwikset only 1.5. There seems to be no doubt which is better-constructed, heavier-duty, and more capable of performing its job. That is why Altic Lock Service recommends Arrow locks and door hardware.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Toy Locks

The photograph compares the disassembled parts of a common residential-style pin tumbler lock cylinder (to the right of the key) to the parts of a "rekeyable" lock cylinder (to the left of the key). Both are commonly available at hardware and home stores.
Is it any wonder that the new rekeyable locks are often failing for no apparent reason? Most people devote little or no attention to lock maintenance. The greater number of small moving parts and mating surfaces just means that many more things can fail. The design of the new locks would seem to make them far more susceptible to failure when they are fouled with dirt and debris. Regular cleaning and lubrication is needed to keep standard pin tumbler locks working properly, though they can often last through years of neglect. That won't be as true of the rekeyable designs.