An excerpt from University of Montana Independent Campus Newsletter
Changes to locks in Pantzer Hall are on the horizon in the wake of a lock-picking incident that resulted in a University of Montana student being charged with a felony.
Scott Thomas Behrman, 19, was charged last Monday with felony criminal mischief, misdemeanor possession of burglary tools and misdemeanor criminal trespass after he allegedly copied a key to Pantzer Hall and broke into multiple dorm rooms and a supply closet.
Sandy Schoonover, director of Residence Life, said that in response to the locks being picked, outside locks are being plugged, and those doors will only be accessible with a Griz card. Pantzer locks are all getting changed, and hallways will now be fitted with electronic locks. Schoonover was unsure whether Griz cards or separate key cards would be used for access to those areas of the dorm.
Turner, Craig, Elrod and Duniway already have similar electronic locks on hallways that prevent non-card holders from entering.
“We’re phasing electronic locks into all of our dorms,” Schoonover said. “We’re doing it as the money comes in.”
Schoonover said she could not comment on the security of dorms without the electronic locks but did say that if people want to get in, they’ll figure out a way to succeed.
“No security system is fool proof,” she said.
Public Safety Director Gary Taylor said picking locks is like a puzzle and that Behrman must be a smart guy.
“He was able to figure out the system,” Taylor said.
In his 26 years as a Public Safety officer at UM, Taylor said he had never heard of anyone picking locks on campus.
The problem in Pantzer, he said, was that there were so many keys that could open the door to the common area.
“The (lock) pins have to be set so that the grand master key, the building master key and four suite room keys can unlock it,” Taylor said.
Grand master keys can open any door on campus and are checked out daily to building facilities staff so they can fix electricity or plumbing problems, for example. The numbered keys are kept on a sealed ring and can’t be removed or separated. When a set is checked out in the morning, the keys are specifically assigned to one person. At the end of the day, if the keys haven’t returned, Public Safety will call the person who checked them out. Every key is accounted for at night and kept in a safe, Taylor said.
As the number of keys with access to a room increases, the security of the room becomes more diluted, Taylor said. But even as electronic locks become more common in dorm rooms, mechanical locks will not be eliminated.
In case of electronic failure, Taylor said, “You have to maintain a mechanical key system.”
UM Locksmith Alex Fradkin did not returns calls for comment