Security for thousands of Austin buildings compromised, city memo says


Highlights

The security at thousands of apartments and commercial buildings in Austin is being overhauled.

Manor police arrested a man on suspicion of burglarizing two properties using a lockbox master key.

Upgrading the security system could cost more than $1.8 million, city officials said.

The security systems at thousands of high-occupancy apartment and commercial buildings in Austin are being replaced after a burglary suspect was found to be in possession of a master key to lockboxes that first responders use, city officials said Tuesday.

In November, authorities arrested 28-year-old Anthony Kavanaugh on the suspicion that he had burglarized at least two different medical properties. Police say Kavanaugh used keys that were obtained from one of the lockboxes, which had to be opened using a master key, court documents show.

Police have recovered the master key since then and found no indication that anyone else was involved in the burglaries, Austin city officials said. However, Austin Fire Department officials still plan to issue new master keys and replace the locks on the lockboxes at all 6,000 building locations across Austin, which should cost about $300,000, according to a city memo issued Tuesday.

Certain high-occupancy buildings are required by city code to supply a lockbox filled with keys or access cards on the outside of the building to give first responders immediate access to the property in the event of an emergency. The Knox Company supplies the lockboxes and the master keys, the memo says.

A master key is kept on each fire and emergency medical response vehicle in Travis County, the memo says.

Austin fire officials have begun to notify the affected property owners, the memo says.

The city eventually plans to replace the entire devices that hold the keys on first responder vehicles, and this is estimated to cost $1.5 million, the memo says.

“The latest version of the Knox box key retention devices includes wireless capabilities so the ability to change security codes can occur from a single central location,” the memo says. “The new retention devices will also have the capability to store two master keys.”

Kavanaugh was booked into the Travis County Jail on Nov. 20, jail records show.

His arrest affidavit names him as a suspect in the burglary of Dell Children’s Medical Center in which $30,000 was stolen and the burglary of a medical complex in Manor off U.S. 290. The affidavit also says he is also a possible suspect in an Austin Community College burglary.

Manor security video showed a man entering the medical complex’s obstetrics and gynecology office and the adjacent FastMed Urgent Care and trying to enter the pharmacy, the Manor police affidavit says. A small amount of money was taken during this Nov. 13 incident.

The affidavit says that Kavanaugh “was believed to be in the possession of a Knox Box key,” but the document does not say how Kavanaugh allegedly got a hold of the key, or whether the key was recovered at that time.



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