Constable Vic Clarke of the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) looked perplexed. As he filled out the incident report:
LOST PROPERTY REPORT
The completion of this report will document the loss of Personal Property
Vancouver Police Department
REPORT NUMBER: 1982-06-011
Call 604 555-1212 and ask for a “Lost Property” report number. If this
number is not filled in, your report will not be recorded by the Department.
NAME: John Schwartz
STREET: 1155 Beach St. Vancouver, BC
SUITE/APT: Apt. #1201
CITY/Postal Code: Vancouver, BC V6E 1V2
TELEPHONE (604) 555-9999
Type of Location: Multi story Apartment
Date Property Last Seen: 1982 06 10 Time: 08:00am
Date Property Discovered Missing: 1982 06 10 Time: 05:10pm
DESCRIPTION – (Serial Numbers if Available) : Rolex - no serial number
CASH (If any) $150.00
Additional Property Is To Be Entered On A Separate Sheet of Paper
Total Loss >>>>> $450.00
NARRATIVE : (Briefly describe what happened.)
Owner returned to his apartment at approx. 3:00pm. Noticed watch and cash missing when he was getting ready to go out for dinner.
No sign of forced entry. No witnesses. Residents of other apartments on this floor were at work.
Reporting Officer: Constable Vic Clarke
This was the second report he had filled out that week, there were three reports last week. They were all similar, the robberies happened during the day, the amount was under $500 and they were all in apartments above the tenth floor. In all cases, the neighbours were at work during the times of the robberies.
‘Even if I caught him for this robbery, he would only get a light sentence for theft under $500. The courts wouldn’t count all the other robberies. He only takes cash and items that can be quickly pawned. Still it all adds up to over $1000 a week and no taxes – that’s more than what I make. . . . Breaking this case will look good next time I apply for detective’
Constable Clarke went and talked to the building manager. The results were always the same. He hadn’t seen anybody other than a few deliver people that had been buzzed in by a resident. There was a video camera in the underground parking area. It covers the front door to the parking area and is monitored by the building manager. Clarke takes the tape even though he knows there probably wouldn’t be anything on it.
Clarke goes back to his car and drives around to the back of the property. There is a small outdoor parking lot off Pacific Ave. A set of stairs at the back of the parking lot lead to a door that opens onto a corridor to the lobby. Another staircase, just to the left of the first, leads down to a door marked ‘Equipment Room’. There is a BC Tel repairman standing in front of the door. Clarke goes to talk to him.
As he approaches the repairman starts to smile. As he gets nearer the man says:
“Twice in one week?”
Clarke looks confused.
“I saw you last week just down the street. I was delivering a phone.”
Clarke smiles in recognition, he had been investigating another breakin at the time. To his embarrassment, there had even been another robbery in that building that day.
“In my fifteen years with the company I never ran into a VPD officer before – then twice in one week. It must be some kind of sign.” The repairman sticks out his hand. “Frank Fisher . . . What can I do for you?”
Clarke glances at the ID card hanging from a lanyard around the man’s neck then shakes his hand.
“Constable Vic Clarke. There have been a series of robberies in high rise apartments in the West End, just investigating one that happened here yesterday. . . . Have you seen anything unusual?”
“Not really” smiling “Other than the increased number of patrol cars in the area.”
Frank takes the building key from the lockbox to the left of the door.
“Do all the repairmen have a key to the lockbox?”
“No, just the ones assigned to working on apartment buildings.” Showing the key to Clarke – “The company started using these tubular tumbler locks. They are supposed to be harder to pick and there is no place that I know of to get one cut.”
Clarke looks at it. He has seen similar keys used on vending machines.
Frank opens the door. Using his foot to stop the door from closing he puts the key back in the lockbox.
“The door will lock as soon as it closes. . . . Some guys like to take everything inside then put the lock back when they finish. I like to make sure everything is locked up before I start.”
Frank holds the door open.
“Could someone break into the lockbox to get the building key?” Clarke asks.
Frank laughs. “I guess they could smash the box, I don’t think they could open it. . . . The most secure thing here is the lockbox. Any locksmith worth his salt could make a key for the door in the time it takes to cut the key.”
“Once inside the equipment room can you get into the rest of the building?”
“Sure. C’mon in – I’ll show you.”
Pointing to his left Frank says “That’s the Hydro room. You don’t want to go in there.” Pointing to the back of the room. “That’s the door to the underground parking and the elevator.”
Clarke goes over to check. ‘That must be how he is getting in without anyone seeing him.’
“Is that the way you get into the main part of the building?”
“Only if I have to change the wire going to the client's apartment. If I am picking up or delivering a phone I use the main entrance. . . . I want to know the customer is home, so I get buzzed in. No sense in going up to the apartment if there is no one home.”
“Don’t you have an appointment?”
“Yeh. But sometimes I am late and sometimes the customer had to go out. . . . Best to be buzzed in.”
Clarke smiles remembering the times he has waited for a service man that didn’t show.
Frank was working while they were talking. He has clipped his orange test phone onto a line, then pulls a black module from a module strip and replaces it with another one from a small cabinet. Still connected to the line he was testing, Frank dials something on the test phone. Then:
“Hello, this is the telephone repairman. Your line should be working now. Please call repair service if you have any more problems.”
Unclipping his test phone, "Got the answering machine."
He takes a red marking pen from his pouch and marks the first module with an ‘X’.
“Don’t want it to get mixed up with the good ones. . . . I’m finished. . . Do you want a Cook’s Tour?”
Clarke had always felt that you never know when a random bit of knowledge may come in useful. “Sure – I have a bit of time.”
Pointing at a large black cable “This cable connects back to the central office down on Seymour St. There are two hundred and fifty pairs of wire in the cable – a little big for this building, but it is always nice to have extra in case something goes wrong..”
Pointing at a strip of fifty rows of modules, five modules per row at the end of a small framework. The framework has five short shelves; there are wires running along the shelves.
“Each cable pair connects to one side of one of a module which acts like a circuit breaker and high voltage protector. . . . The trouble I had today was with the high voltage protector. It blocks any high voltages, say from a lightning strike, from blowing your phone off the wall. They sometimes go bad – you can’t fix them. . . . You with me so far?”
Clarke nods “What are those red modules for?”
“Those are for alarm circuits – we never touch them.” Anticipating his next question – “That orange module means the line has been disconnected – probably an empty apartment. . . . . These pins on the right” – pointing to the right side of the strip of modules – “connect to the other side of the module.”
“Do you solder the wire to the pin?”
“No, we have a tool for wrapping the wire onto the pin. I was skeptical of it at first – but they work great”
Going to the side of the frame Frank shows him a series of connector blocks. “Each block connects to a cable going to one of the floors.” Grabbing a wire from the shelf. “This wire running along the shelf connects the cable pair from the office to the cable going to the right floor.”
Clarke asks “Why do some blocks have less wires than others?”
“The lower floors have smaller apartments, more apartments per floor. From about the fifth floor up, the apartments start getting larger – fewer per floor.”
‘Bingo’ Clarke smiles to himself. ‘That is why the robberies were all above the tenth floor – fewer neighbours. Less likely for there to be someone at home.’
“You left a message on the answering machine. I didn’t think you could call yourself back like that.”
“You noticed that, did you?” Forcing a laugh. “There is a code you can dial that will ring the phone on the line you are on. If I am going to have the line down for any length of time I call before I start, to see if anyone is home. This time I was only going to be a few seconds – so I just left a message once I was finished.”
Frank says “I have to get back to work. . . . So, now you know how this works, if you ever get tired of the VPD you can become a repairman.”
Laughing Clarke replies. “I think I will stay where I am.”
Both men walk back to their vehicles. After saying goodbye Constable Clarke gets in his cruiser and drives off, excited to report what he has found out about entering the building through the Equipment Room. ‘I might even make detective out of this.’
Frank sits in his van pretending to look through a stack of papers - waiting for Clarke to leave.
‘What a schlemiel! I laid out the whole scam for him and he still didn’t figure out who I was. . . . Still when you have the right look and know the patter people accept you at face value. . . . Maybe it's time to move on. Check out the Calgary Stampede next month.’
Glancing down at the toolbox behind the passenger seat.
‘Best investment I ever made – getting a machine to cut keys for tubular locks.’