USF ends vehicle unlock program

Because of advancements in technology and safety hazards, the USF Division of Public Safety eliminated the vehicle unlock program that was once offered to faculty and students.

The program assisted those who locked themselves out of their cars. However, the tools used were found to possibly cause damage to vehicles’ side air bags, while electronic locks made it difficult to unlock newer cars.

The end of the spring semester marked the end of the free service.

 “I see it as ending a disservice,” said Bruce Benson, assistant vice president of Public Safety.  “It is an outdated service that can cause more damage to the person’s car.”

All security personnel on campus, including Allied Barton, Parking Enforcement and University Police, assisted in the program.

Officials used two different methods to open vehicles. The most common method was the use of a slim jim, a thin rod inserted between the door and the window, to pull the
lock open.

Slim jims can cause scratches on the window or puncture the side air bags that are common in newer cars.

“Electronic locks are no longer able to be opened using slim jims and side air bags could be damaged,” Benson said. “We do not want to risk setting off an air bag or damaging one so that if a person is involved in an accident it doesn’t work properly.”

Sometimes a crow bar was used, but this method ran the risk of bending the doors, causing them to close improperly.

Benson said the elimination of the program would have little effect, if any, because the service cost nothing for students or the Division of Public Safety.

“I don’t know if it is a good thing or bad thing,” said Melissa Sharrock, a senior majoring in history and anthropology. “It was a good program that they had for people.”

While some students may think that the program was a good thing, some have never had the need for it.

“I have AAA so I would never use it,” said Stephanie Greene, who graduated from USF in the spring with a degree in biology. “I can understand why they would cut it.”

Matt Fronk, a senior majoring in social work and member of Safe Team, said he was not even aware of the program. 

“I don’t think a lot of students knew about it, and most people won’t miss it until they need it,” he said.

Benson said police officers are not locksmiths and that people who have locked
themselves out of their car and are a member of services such as AAA should call those companies for help.

If students need assistance contacting a locksmith, Benson said they can contact the department’s dispatcher using their cell phone or one of the emergency blue-light phones stationed around campus.

Benson said security officers are available to wait for a locksmith with anyone who feels unsafe.