Police say burglar used master key to get into woman's apartment

Police say contractor had master key used to burglarize apartment

An apartment complex master key in the wrong hands is a scary thought. A Northport woman shared her story with the I-Team to warn others not to take your security for granted.

One February morning she heard a key going in her door lock. She jumped up with her cellphone camera in hand and took pictures as she opened the door. The man claimed to be from pest control, but had no equipment.

Northport Police later identified the man as Steven Sexton who had worked on the property as a sub-contractor. He did work inside the woman's apartment after her water heater broke. Sexton is charged with burglary and attempted burglary.

He's accused of using using a stolen master key to come to the woman's apartment several times to steal medications. "It's a violation; you don't feel safe anymore," explained the victim who asked that we not use her name. "I expect them to provide security and supervision," says the tenant.

While these cases are rare, Assistant Northport Police Chief Keith Carpenter says key security is up to each complex. Some keys require a certified locksmith to copy a key while others can be done at a home improvement store. He advises you consider a safe to secure valuables and add an extra set of eyes with a motion sensor camera so you will know if someone enters your apartment.

The victim in this case has new locks and says she'll handle her own maintenance from now on. "Be mindful you are responsible for your own safety, you can't count on your leasing agent."

Before signing a lease ask managers about policies for keeping the keys secure. Ask if background checks are done on staff and contractors. Also request that you be notified anytime someone comes in your apartment.

The company that manages the apartment complex, Duckworth Morris Realty Co., declined to be interviewed for our story but issued a written statement.

Statement of Essex Square Apartments:

The Essex Square Apartments policy provides that only a few of the most trusted employees have access to master keys. Unfortunately, recently it was discovered that the policy was not followed on an occasion when a third party vendor, which had been doing work for Essex Square Apartments for many years, needed access to certain apartments to perform certain work, and an employee of the third party vendor obtained a master key and improperly used the master key to gain unauthorized access to an apartment. Management promptly took action to change the locks on all the apartments at Essex Square Apartments to ensure that the residents were safe and that there is no chance that the person still has access to any of the apartments.
All employees of Essex Square Apartments have under gone thorough criminal background checks, as well as other background investigations, to ensure they are responsible and trustworthy. The management of Essex Square Apartments is conducting additional training of its employees to ensure that access to the master keys is tightly restricted, and any violation of the master key policy will result in serious disciplinary measures and could include termination of employment. The master keys are locked in a safe so only a few of the most trusted employees can access the master keys on very limited occasions. The security and safety of Essex Square residents is of utmost importance to its management team. Essex Square Apartments regrets that its master key policy was violated, and sincerely apologizes to its residents for any inconvenience and concerns this has caused.
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