In the last several weeks, Statesboro's top law enforcement officers have been telling local residents to lock up. Both Statesboro Police Chief Stan York and Bulloch County Sheriff Lynn Anderson have spoken out about the increase in theft as tough economic times continue.
The owners of B & B Lock and Key in Statesboro didn't need either officer to tell them that crime is on the increase, their customers have done that. "We have been so busy the last few months, I can't even tell you," said Bill Stradling, Jr. "As the economy goes down, our calls go up."
Founded by Stradling 20 years ago, B & B is Statesboro's only full service locksmith with a storefront for customers.
"I no longer own a part of the business," he said. "I sold my portion out to Farris Tompkins who worked for a number of years with us before buying in. He and my son Bill Stradling, III own it now. I have just continued to work here, because I really, really enjoy it."
Stradling said two facets of their business have seen double digit growth in the last several months.
"In addition to selling and upgrading ‘locking' systems for homes and businesses, we are selling a tremendous number of safes," he said. "Sales range from small safes that are bolted to the floor to very large safes that will hold a number of guns and valuables."
Stradling said in some cases people are afraid to leave their valuables in a safety deposit box at the bank.
"They feel that if the bank closes, they wouldn't be able to get into their safety deposit boxes, so they are taking things out and putting them into safes in their homes," he said. "I am just amazed at the number of people that are not only buying safes, but are interested in safes, just looking."
David Lowell, executive director of the Associated Locksmiths of America in Dallas, Texas, said there are number of factors playing into the increase in business that his organization's members are experiencing.
"For instance, when you have foreclosures, the banks will want you to go and change the locks on the home," he said. "Just think of the number of foreclosures that have happened. Further, let's say that you are a company with 500 employees, and you lay off 20 or so at a time, in phases. Each time you do that, something in the security of your facility has to change whether it is locks, codes, whatever."
Tompkins said his company serves a 10-county area, and it has been challenging to the meet the demand over the last several months.
"There have been weeks that we simply didn't think that we could keep up," he said. "We are very, very grateful for the business, and have been able to manage it somehow. It is just a testament to the times that we live in."
Tompkins said that the trend is towards access control systems for entry and away from traditional locks with keys.
"Business owners want to know who is entering their business and when," he said. "With a key, you don't necessarily know that unless you are monitoring with surveillance cameras. Business owners are getting smarter and smarter about employee access."
Tompkins said the trend doesn't end with business owners, homeowners are getting on the bandwagon as well.
"People are getting smarter about protecting their homes," he said. "The more expensive the home, the better the security. They aren't taking any chances."
Stradling said a lot of businesses simply can't afford to be burglarized and are taking security much more seriously.
"I guess in these times, people really, really want to hold on to what they have, because frankly, they may not have the means to replace it," he said. "A number of businesses don't have burglary insurance, and so they really have to protect themselves. It has become an important part of being a business owner - now, as much as ever."