Police will stop responding to lockouts in 2018

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COLUMBIA - Columbia Police will no longer respond to non-emergency lockout calls starting January 1, 2018. Dispatchers will refer callers to nearby locksmiths instead. Police said this will be a more efficient way to handle the low-priority calls for everyone involved.

“There would be times a citizen would wait minutes, or hours on occasion, for an officer to respond," Public Information Officer Bryana Larimer said. "In most cases when the officer got there, they then would just refer them to the locksmith anyway, would make the contact for them on scene or by phone while they were en route.”

Larimer said it has not been protocol for Columbia police to attempt to unlock cars or homes in the past 10 years. Officers typically wait for experts for liability reasons.

“If the individual decides to come back and file a civil suit against that party then they can choose to do so,” Larimer said. “Essentially, anyone can sue anyone when it comes to civil matters.”

Some locksmiths agree that it is better to wait for a trained professional. Jareth Garza has been working with cars for years. He said experience is key in lockouts.

“I’m not putting the police department down, or any individual who works for them, but locksmiths are just better prepared to deal with these situations,” Garza said. “I’ve molded my knowledge around vehicle systems and I know how to unlock the system with the least amount of damage.”

CPD responded to over 250 lockout calls in 2017. Officers spent around 15 minutes handling each situation.

“Ultimately, it’s going to free up a little bit of officers’ time, but primarily it’s really there to assist the citizens, so the citizen is not sitting and waiting for officers to respond to then having to wait for locksmiths to respond,” Larimer said. “It is really just trying to ensure that, again, the process is streamlined and that citizens have quicker access to the resources they need to get on their way.”