Yesterday, we mocked the hype over master keys. Today, Mayor Bloomberg tells the New York Post that there is a "glut of master keys" and that there are at least 11,000 keys out there, one per firefighter. The keys sold on eBay to a New York Post reporter weren't just firefighter keys. It was a collection of five keys that opened everything from traffic light controls to high-rise elevators to city construction projects.
One set of leaked keys sold online is annoying, but not necessarily a red-level terror alert. When there are 11,000 firefighter keys (which Bloomberg has admitted are hard to keep track of due to turnover) and an unknown amount of electrical keys handed out to every city electrician, now the enormity of the problem is starting to come into focus. Keys can be copied, lost, stolen, or sold. The locksmith that sold the keys on eBay bought his copies at trade shows and swap meets.
There are certainly ways to secure the keys. Perhaps lawmakers could make it a felony to copy or sell a city key. Here’s another idea: add a GPS transmitter to the keys and a microchip with the identification of the proper possessor. A quick Google search finds GPS transmitters the size of a normal keyless entry fob that one would get with their personal vehicle. Imagine one of those with a key permanently attached to it. Maybe it’s even designed like the switchblade-style VW key fob with the button that pops out the key. It’s not unwieldy, yet it’s perfectly able to be tracked.
Instead, we have tens of thousands of master keys floating around the city, secured only by engraved serial numbers, and a mayor that is essentially saying, ‘Well. Shucks. We’d like to secure them, but…’
No buts. The city built the security nightmare and needs to fix it before someone other than a reporter gets a hold of a set of keys. Otherwise, the citizens could not only be facing the danger of an unsecured city, but also the city could be setting themselves up for a massive lawsuit.
The city built the key system. The city also has a duty to protect its citizens from the danger of the city-created key system and to act as the reasonable city would in curing the security nightmare. The hypothetical reasonable city would arguably take steps to secure such a system, such as GPS’d keys. Anything less could well constitute negligence.
- Consult with a New York Personal Injury Attorney (FindLaw)
- Negligence (FindLaw’s Learn About the Law)
- Viral Video Gets NYC MTA To Repair Subway Stairs in 24 Hours (FindLaw’s New York Personal Injury Law Blog)
- State Immunity Laws Do Not Protect the Government from all Legal Claims (FindLaw’s Learn About the Law)