Police are looking to identify five people suspected of breaking into lockboxes in Downtown buildings, taking keys used to gain access to common area, and then stealing various packages and mail. Photo courtesy of the Long Beach Police Department.

Long Beach police are asking for the public’s help identifying five burglary suspects who allegedly have been breaking into the lockboxes of buildings Downtown and stealing keys used to access common areas.

The first instance of one of the suspects breaking into a building’s lockbox, also known as a KnoxBox, occurred just before 5 a.m. Monday, Dec. 18 in the 100 block of West Fourth Street, according to police. Another KnoxBox was broken into just before 5 a.m. in the 1100 block of East Ocean Boulevard on Dec. 23 and again on Christmas Day in the 200 block of Broadway, police said.

The suspects then use the keys to enter common areas in these buildings to steal various packages and mail, according to authorities.

It’s not yet clear whether the burglaries or suspects are connected in any way, according to police, who described each suspect as a male between 5 feet, 10 inches, and 6 feet tall.

In response, the city of Long Beach on Friday issued a safety advisory warning community members of the issue and providing information on preventive measures.

“While there are no reports of access to personal residences or other threats to public safety at this time, it is essential that the community is informed of the potential for unauthorized access to these KnoxBoxes and are educated about ways to prevent future instances from occurring,” the city said in a statement Friday. “People with a KnoxBox at their residence or business should pay specific attention to it and report any signs of tampering.”

KnoxBoxes are located throughout the city and contain keys to specific properties, which according to authorities, allow fire and law enforcement personnel to rapidly access areas within these buildings during an emergency.

“Keys to these boxes are tightly controlled and inventoried; as of today, all keys that are assigned to City personnel or emergency apparatus are present and accounted for,” the city said.

The Long Beach Fire Department, which manages the KnoxBox program in the city, is working to come up with long-term solutions to enhance the security of the KnoxBoxes.

In the short-term, authorities are working on placing “high security tamper-proof” labels on existing KnoxBoxes, with homeowner associations, property managers and business owners with these boxes able to request the upgrades starting Jan. 2 by calling 562-570-2525 or emailing [email protected].

In the meantime, the LBPD sent out the following tips to help prevent more KnoxBoxes from being broken into:

  • All residential and commercial buildings with a KnoxBox should increase their situational awareness and be vigilant by paying more attention to who enters their building and use any monitoring system to assist with additional surveillance.
  • If individuals see anything that looks suspicious or not right, say something. Please report it immediately by calling the Long Beach Police Department at 562-435-6711.
  • If you use a security guard or patrol service, have the security officer regularly check the KnoxBox while performing rounds.
  • If your facility has a video surveillance system, it is recommended that a camera is placed in an area that directly views the location where the KnoxBox is installed.
  • Arrange to have the KnoxBox in a well-lit and obstruction-free location visible from the street.
  • If the KnoxBox must be surface mounted, ensure it is rigidly attached to a structural support member.  Installation, which is through-bolted to the wall should be used whenever possible.
  • Recess-mounted key boxes are more attack-resistant than surface-mounted key boxes.
  • KnoxBox can be relocated/mounted in a higher location (no higher than 6 feet from the ground), making it less accessible to unauthorized persons.
  • Consider installing KnoxBox’s enhanced security box that provides an alarm tamper switch within the KnoxBox. When opened, this switch will activate the intrusion alarm system or security management system. This should be programmed to notify an off-site security officer or other responsible party anytime the box has been opened. The tamper switch option can also sound an audible alarm when the box is opened and deter unwanted entry.