University Village apartments risked intrusion after master keys were stolen

Photo of University Village in Berkeley.
Andrew Kuo/File
University Village staff replaced old locksets with temporary ones to prevent the stolen master keys from being used to infiltrate University Village units.

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The apartments of University Village had their master key box stolen either Aug. 9 or Aug. 10.

University Village is a campus-owned housing community located in Albany for students with families. According to an email sent by Jen Siecienski, associate director for graduate and family housing, to University Village residents after 4 p.m. Aug. 10, a box containing keys that could open every unit at University Village was stolen between the afternoon of Aug. 9 and the early morning of Aug. 10. The box was not discovered as stolen until 10 a.m. Aug. 10.

UCPD is conducting an investigation of the theft.

Residents were advised to use their chain locks to prevent intruders after the theft, according to the email. Philosophy graduate student Adam Paris noted, however, that he did not have a chain lock in his unit when he was notified of the stolen key box and installed a chain lock himself.

“I live here with my wife and my child,” Paris said. “I slept on the couch with a wooden rolling pin (to protect my family).”

Campus spokesperson Adam Ratliff noted in an email that staff worked “diligently” over the past few days to replace the old locksets with temporary ones so the stolen master keys could not be used to infiltrate University Village units.

Staff also followed public safety guidelines in light of the coronavirus pandemic by wearing face coverings and physically distancing themselves while changing University Village locksets, according to Ratliff’s email.

“We recognize that this event has been troubling for (University Village) residents,” Ratliff said in his email. “I want to assure you that their safety is of paramount importance.”

University Village apartments will undergo a second round of permanent lockset replacements, Ratliff said in the email. While the first round of lockset replacements was done to secure the units from the previous master keys, the new permanent locks will use a “one key system” that will have a master key, he noted in the email.

UC Berkeley keeps master keys for University Village so campus, UCPD, Berkeley Fire Department and building maintenance can access any unit in case of an emergency, such as a fire or flood, or for general maintenance purposes, according to Ratliff.

“I was furious,” Paris said. “There should have been something done that night or Monday immediately after they had discovered the theft.”

Paris also said his locks were not changed until the following Saturday morning, about six days after the master key box was stolen.

According to Ratliff, residents must refrain from replacing their own locks because it would cause “extreme delays” in access during an emergency. Furthermore, one-key systems are not available to the general public and campus is working directly with a lockset manufacturer to carry out the permanent re-keying process.

According to Paris, all the locks except four have been changed. The residents of four units changed their locks themselves, contrary to their rental agreements.

“I worry about those people for taking the quite reasonable step in securing their apartment,” Paris said. “If it can be confirmed that they made the change after the notification (of the theft), then there should be no consequences for them.”

UCPD officers have increased their coverage of University Village since the master keys were stolen, Ratliff said in his email.

Additionally, UCPD Corporal DiMarco Hoskins hosted a virtual “Coffee with a Cop” meeting Friday to answer questions about University Village security. Campus officials also met with the University Village community via Zoom on Monday.

Contact Eric Rogers at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @eric_rogers_dc.

Clarification(s):
A previous version of this article’s headline may have implied that University Village apartments are still at risk of intrusion.