'Knox Box' master key theft compromises thousands of buildings across Austin

28-year-old Anthony Clayton Kavanaugh's "master key" got him into plenty of places across Travis County. It even eventually got him into jail.

"A 'Knox Box' is a key-secure safe that's attached to the outside of large-occupancy buildings that have fire protection systems that allow for medical and fire crews to make quick entry after hours," said Robert Vires with the Austin Fire Department.

Somehow Kavanaugh got the master key that is kept on fire trucks and EMS vehicles. "There is a pin code that an individual has to use, a firefighter has to use, to unlock and move the key."

Sgt. Craig Struble with Manor Police says Kavanaugh was caught on camera mysteriously entering a medical center on Shadow Glen in November. "We determined that he broke in to the OBGYN office and the Fast Med office. He took a small amount of money, nothing significant," Struble said.

Manor P.D. reached out to other law enforcement who recognized Kavanaugh from other burglaries. "Suspected method of entry was that he would use a Knox Box key to open the Knox Box at the locations and then use those keys to get in the building," Struble said.

According to an Austin Police arrest affidavit, Kavanaugh took more than $31,000 from a cashier's office at Dell Children's in September. When hospital security saw the surveillance video they recognized him as a former patient.

"Austin Police Department had arrested him on the 20th of November which is a week after our burglary and so we ended up filing our warrant against him on the 30th of November," Struble said.

So how did Kavanaugh get that master key?

"We've had this system in place for 34 years. It's very sound, it's very safe, it's an excellent product. As far as what transpired for the key that was stolen I can't speak to the details of that with an investigation currently underway," Vires said.

Now city staff will be asking council in February for $300,000 in emergency dollars to upgrade Knox Boxes at more than 6,000 buildings across the city compromised by this unusual situation.

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