Widespread raids on key safes in Victoria

key safe

Danny Baggs

Posted June 15, 2022

Key safes are popular across Victoria for renters and homeowners who need to allow third parties into their homes, whether for care, chores or simply when they forget their own keys. But are they truly safe?

Earlier this year, St Kilda resident Peter Matthews answered a call from his apartment building’s regular cleaner. The key safe that the cleaner had gone to fetch their keys from had been smashed open, and the keys were gone.

Matthews investigated by watching his building’s CCTV footage and quickly spotted the culprit. “The thief used a hammer,” he recalled. “We could see him striking furiously down on to it [the key safe].”

Luckily the keys only gave the burglar access to common facility areas in the building and not private apartments. But had the cleaner been employed to clean Matthews’ apartment instead, his valuables could easily have been stolen. “We’ve been told by our access control contractor that this is widespread,” Matthews said.

Here’s everything you need to know about increasing key safe theft, and how you can protect your home.

young masked man opening a key safe

Key safes are often used by aged-care and medical workers. Image: Getty


Key safe theft on the rise

What is a key safe?

A key safe (sometimes called a lock box) is a small but strong storage box that allows you to store spare keys outside a building. They are usually protected by a keycode that must be correctly entered on its keypad to open.

Key safes are used for back up entry: if you lose your keys or lock yourself out, you can get into your home without needing to call out a locksmith. Aged-care workers, real estate agents, domestic cleaners, and bed & breakfast operators also find key safes helpful to let themselves or their customers into properties. Schools and businesses may keep a large key safe indoors to store keys to multiple locations that various employees need to access.

How are key safes vulnerable to attack?

Key safes may be strong, but they cannot easily withstand impact. That makes them into to break into with a hammer or similar tools. A few heavy smashes and your lockbox could be broken into. “It’s easy for burglars to smash open key safes if they’re installed with plastic wall plugs,” pointed out Matthews. “With tens of thousands of key safes in use, residents need to know how unsafe key safes can be.”

broken key safe

Peter came home to this smashed-open key safe earlier this year. Image: Peter Matthews


How can I store my keys safely?

If you need a key safe for personal or business reasons, purchase one that is weatherproof and crowbar-proof. Certain digital lockboxes even log every entry on a smartphone app, so you can be alerted to an unintended entry.

Make sure to install your key safe in a discreet area that can’t be seen from the street. Don’t put it by the door or at eye level, or next to your garage (which is another area targeted by burglars). If a potential burglar can’t find a lockbox, your keys will remain safe.

Follow manufacturer instructions and attach the key safe to a solid surface like concrete or brickwork. “We reinstalled a second safe with large masonry screws and epoxy glue,” Matthews said.

Finally, regularly change your key safe’s code for extra security. These tips will all increase the length of time a potential burglar would spend searching for a way in. With the average burglary lasting only eight minutes according to Neighbourhood Watch Victoria, it means that burglars will be easily dissuaded from trying to break into your home.

Matthews has gone the extra mile to secure his keys by relocating his key safe internally along with other residents in his St Kilda apartment block. “Because access fobs can be copied for $20, we are changing to secure pin code readers that we can manage remotely,” he explained. “It’s an expensive exercise costing $18,000, but necessary. Key safes are no longer safe and are a high risk to your safety and your property’s safety.”

man with safety glasses installing a key safe

Make sure to install your key safes properly for maximum security. Image: Getty


Update your home and contents insurance coverage

It’s also important to check whether your current home insurance policy provides the level of protection you need in the event of theft.

“The last thing any Victorian needs is the added shock of finding out that their insurance doesn't cover them for the cost of replacing their items or repairing their home when they need to make a claim,” said Kirsty Hayes, RACV’s Head of Home & Business Insurance.

“Make sure you have the right type of insurance and the amount you are covered for is adequate, especially increasing any limits on valuable items like jewellery, watches or electronics, which are attractive to thieves.”

Safeguard yourself in the event of theft with RACV Home Insurance.
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The information provided is general advice only. Before making any decisions please consider your own circumstances and the Product Disclosure Statement and Target Market Determinations. For copies, visit racv.com.au. As distributor, RACV Insurance Services Pty Ltd AFS Licence No. 230039 receives commission for each policy sold or renewed. Product(s)issued by Insurance Manufacturers of Australia Pty Ltd ABN 93 004 208 084 AFS Licence No. 227678.