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Locksmith registry aims to counter fraud

The bad press this past summer about fraudsters posing as locksmiths to take advantage of residential and commercial customers has spurred one association to action.



November 2, 2009
By Vawn Himmelsbach

ILOC, the Institutional Locksmiths Organization of Canada, is
developing a database of professional locksmiths and door security
professionals, which will be operational on Jan. 1, 2010. The National
Locksmith Registry is open to any locksmith across Canada, whether
institutional, residential, commercial or industrial, and will provide
the public with a means to carry out safety and due diligence checks of
contractors and installers of security and door hardware.

This is particularly a problem in Ontario. “Ontario is pretty much the
last place that has no licensing for locksmiths, so that’s why the
schemer stuff is having such an effect here because anybody can just
grab a screwdriver and say they’re a locksmith,” said Thomas Fraser,
president of ILOC. “The distributors don’t have the time and it’s not
their responsibility to be a watchdog.”

The registry is being created to provide a database of legitimate
locksmiths and security personnel from across Canada who have completed
and passed an RCMP criminal background check (form C216-C). It will not
interfere with any province’s existing locksmith legislation, and will
work toward enhancing the industry in the last remaining areas of
Canada where there’s no legitimate licensing and legislation.

“It’s a good thing that we organize in Canada,” said Ron McLennan,
president of the BC Association of Professional Locksmiths (BCAPL).
There are some groups here that want to embrace ALOA, the Associated
Locksmiths of America. “They do a great job, but I don’t want an
American entity coming in and lobbying my MLAs and influencing my
legislation.”

There’s often resistance to organization — particularly if there’s a
cost or commitment involved. But McLennan sees a need to regulate that
skill set, document it and put credentials behind it. “The greatest
door opener in the world is a piece of paper, the one that says you’ve
been cleared by some governance authority saying you’ve paid your dues
and they trust you,” he said. Without credentials, the nation is
vulnerable to nefarious operators. “Anything we can do to get that
large population in Ontario onboard, that’s huge, and next is Quebec.”

The registry is well overdue, said Carol Lovell, account executive with
Security Locksmith & Design in Toronto. But getting an RCMP
criminal background check isn’t the only way to protect the end-user.

“A locksmith or door security professional can only be as honest as
their knowledge,” she said. Lack of knowledge can be considered
criminal when the end-user is left with violations of building code,
which can end up costing twice the amount of the original job or, even
worse, a life.

This situation could be rectified by having locksmiths submit
certificates of completion from manufacturers stating which product
lines they’re qualified to work with and writing an exam of basic
building code compliances. “As a consumer, if my car needs to be
serviced I’m taking it to a licensed mechanic dealing with genuine
parts,” she said. “Unfortunately our locksmithing industry is not
licensed and until such time the consumer will not be protected against
criminal acts.”

Membership in a national registry should be based on something like
certification, said Jim Broughton, owner of Logan Lake Locksmiths in
B.C. “It would be good if people were at least tested as to their
knowledge of fire and life safety codes before the public was exposed
to using their services,” he said. “Association membership would be far
from perfect, but there should be something to measure who’s on that
list.”

But if it fosters communication, and if ILOC is careful about who’s on
that list, it could be a decent public service, he added, and it could
help to counter some of the recent locksmith scams.

It will be up to the individual locksmith to get security clearance
from the RCMP and provide proof to ILOC (to be validated every three
years). The cost will include $25 from the RCMP for the background
check and another $10 from ILOC for processing fees, including a photo
ID card.

Already ILOC has had a few hundred requests. “It shows there’s a need
out there,” said Fraser. The Web site has been getting a lot of hits
from Western Canada, and he’s had phone calls from Manitoba and
Saskatchewan, which means the interest isn’t centralized in Ontario.
“It’s almost easy in Ontario because there’s nothing [in terms of
legislation], so the guys working here want something to give them a
leg up,” he said. “Out West, it’s encouraging because they already have
licensing, so they at least want to promote change in the industry.”