Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Accurate answers? Part 1: Just what did FWCLA and ALOA tell the Florida legislators about Florida locksmiths?

Legislators review hundreds of bills each year and cannot be expected to know and understand how every industry works or what its needs are. One way they obtain information is to require that proponents of a bill supply answers about the impact and cost of the bill on a questionnaire called the “Sunrise Questionnaire for Groups Seeking New Regulation.”

Proponents Tim McMullen of Associated Locksmiths of America (ALOA) and Ken Kupferman of the Florida West Coast Locksmiths Association (FWCLA) answered the 14 questions posed to them. Both sponsors of the bills, Representative Thomas Anderson (R) and Senator Victor Crist (R), later on in committee meeting testimony, echoed much of the information.

Since many times busy legislators rely on the information provided by industry experts, it’s important to examine the accuracy of the information ALOA and FWCLA provided about the Florida locksmith industry.

Some questions and answers have been summarized. To read the Questionnaire and the answers in its entity, go to the link at the bottom of the story. Links to all documentation are listed after the story. Also, take the time to notice how many questions are obviously answered by ALOA and how many by FWCLA. It’s important when the very last question is presented.

Question 1
Provide the number of individuals or businesses that would be subject to the regulation:

Only ALOA Answered: ALOA estimated there were 1,660 locksmiths in Florida. ALOA states they have 415 Florida members and with these figures assumes they represent 20% of all Florida locksmiths.

Inaccurate: The Senate’s analyst Mandy O’Callaghan, who analyzed the bill, estimates there are 2,400 locksmiths in Florida. An exhaustive check of ALOA’s FindALocksmith website for Florida locksmiths in April revealed only 249 Florida members listed. These figures indicate ALOA represents only 10% of all locksmiths in Florida. Either ALOA miscounted or 166 Florida locksmiths have paid for an ALOA membership with a listing and did not get their listing.

Question 2
Name each association that represents members of the profession or occupation and provide a copy of its codes of ethics or conduct:

Answer: FWCLA and ALOA stated they had members in 3 state associations and listed:

Central Florida Locksmith Association
    (45 members, 7 in ALOA)
First Coast Locksmith Association
    (20 members, 1 in ALOA)
Florida West Coast Locksmith Association
    (48 members, 8 in ALOA)
Associated Locksmiths of America (ALOA) – Code of Ethics attached.

Accurate: After comparing ALOA’s membership list with the online member lists of each association, ALOA has a total of 16 members in three state associations or about 13%.

Accurate? Since ALOA did attach their Code of Ethics, I checked to see if “fudging” on a Senate Questionnaire was specifically listed and no, it wasn’t. The ALOA Code of Ethics is worth a read. It specifies that locksmiths should have “high ideals of personal honor.”

Question 3
Document the nature and extent of the harm to the public caused by the unregulated practice of the profession or occupation. Describe any complaints lodged against persons who have practiced the profession or occupation in this state during the preceding 3 years.

Before we reveal FWCLA and ALOA’s answer, we first need to get a good definition of a “professional” locksmith. Locksmiths, themselves, come in various degrees depending upon their desires. Some locksmiths are general practitioners – they do a little bit of everything. Others may specialize in just one or two areas of locksmithing such as auto, safes, commercial, residential, access control, hospitality, etc. The possibilities are endless. But whatever course of operation a locksmith chooses, he/she can be considered a professional if they meet the following definition and I believe most locksmiths meet this definition. To define a “professional” locksmith we do that by defining three words within this question:

Practice: to do or perform something repeatedly in order to acquire a skill

Profession: an occupation that requires considerable and specialized training
Occupation: an activity that serves as one’s regular source of livelihood

With these definitions, the question clearly is “Document the nature and extent of the harm to the (Florida) public caused by unregulated (by the State) professionally-trained Florida locksmiths who actively acquire skills and training to enhance their service and livelihood.”

The word “Florida” was added to clarify which “public” the Senators were concerned about since, obviously, they can only legislate in Florida. Also added are the words “by the State” to modify the word “unregulated.” Currently, there are no State regulations, which is what the question refers to, but professional locksmiths do adhere to county and city regulations, which mainly include zoning procedures, occupational licenses or business tax receipts.

Why “locksmith” scammers can never be considered professional locksmiths

Undoubtedly, one of the best explanations of how a network of professional locksmiths operates within a community was written by locksmith Tom Lynch, CRL, founder of the Society of Professional Locksmiths and former board member of ALOA and is posted on the media resource page of his website. (See link below) It states:

Fabric of the Industry -
The locksmith industry is comprised of a variety of individuals who posses various skill sets and backgrounds. The industry is considered to be a specialized tight-knit community. On a local level the professional locksmiths know each other and those working within their demographic area because of all the hours spent training together, meeting at locksmith supply houses, attending social events and association meetings, and attending product seminars or conventions. These locksmiths are frequently engaged in assisting one another in skill set development and mentoring. They regularly refer locksmiths in other areas when calls come in from out of their work area or if a job requires someone of a certain specialty.

“Locksmith” scammers are obviously locked out of this vibrant network of professionals.

Unfortunately, for Florida’s professional locksmiths, FWCLA and ALOA did not read through the question as thoroughly as I did. Their answer lumped Florida’s professional locksmiths with all sorts of criminal and unethical “locksmith” scammers not only in Florida, but all over the United States and in Canada when they provided a specific link to ALOA’s website. Here’s FWCLA and ALOA’s answer, or maybe it was just ALOA’s answer:

Answer: FWCLA and ALOA state that “locksmith scammers are defrauding and overcharging the public all over the country with a large portion in the retirement communities of Florida.” Legislators are provided a link to ALOA’s website, specifically to an 11-page list of 201 news stories from around the country and Canada with at least one-third of the articles more than three years old. (There were 201 news stories when I first began writing about this issue. More stories have been added.)

Accurate part: “Locksmith” scammers……is happening all over the country.

Inaccurate part: Linking to this list of 201 news stories across the country gives the impression the problem in Florida is huge when only 13 stories are Florida-related and within the three year limit. Many of the headlines use the word “locksmith” without explaining that these were call center employees posing as locksmiths.

Here’s how the 13 Florida stories break down:

8     Stories highlighted the investigation and arrest of call center
      owner David Peer who dispatched the “locksmith”scammers.
      (This was great news for the industry. These are not problem
    “locksmith” stories but problem solved stories.)

1     “News story of Senator Victor Crist introducing SB 658
      (an announcement story)

4     Stories are about call center employee scammers posing as
      locksmiths. None of the stories identify the victim as
        a retirement community resident.
See links to stories below.

Four incidents in 3 years, none of which are related to professional locksmiths. This is not a huge problem. I’ll tell you later what other agencies have said, but after analyzing merely the documentation ALOA provided to legislators, there were only 4 incidents.

Part 2 details the booklet of locksmith misconduct given to House Committee members, Rep. Thomas Anderson’s comments at a committee hearing, what important “enforcement mechanism” (law) does ALOA believe is necessary for Florida locksmiths and what is the motivation behind ALOA’s push


Sunrise Questionnaire Click Here


Central Florida Locksmith Association www.cflalocksmith.org
First Coast Locksmith Association www.fcla.net
Florida West Coast Locksmith Association www.fwcla.org

Associated Locksmiths of America www.aloa.org

ALOA’s locksmith listings www.findalocksmith.com
ALOA’S Press room – 200+ stories www.aloa.org/pdf/pressroom.pdf
      There were 201 stories when I first began investigating in March/April

Society of Professional Locksmiths' Media Resource Page

4 news stories – none identifying victims as retirement community residents

1. University of South Florida students and “locksmith” scammers www.usforacle.com/address-listings-for-mobile-locksmiths-don-t-match-up-1.2109053

2. Jacksonville “locksmith” scammer story www.firstcoastnews.com/news/special/specialreports/news-article.aspx?storyid=147962&catid=343

3. Hudson, FL story of woman and “locksmith”scammer www.abcactionnews.com/news/local/story/Finding-a-trustworthy-locksmith/QNY61c7L3kiKAAAOnpMSEQ.cspx

4. Orlando woman and “locksmith” scammer www.clickorlando.com/news/14656112/detail.html

1 comment:

  1. Great job!!! This took a lot of work and it's obvious. I'm very proud of you. You've got something worthwhile going on here. Keep up the good work. I believe so strongly in this, I sent a donation to encourage you. Perhap someone will see this and you will prosper as a result. We need watchmen on the towers to let us know what's going on around us.