Latter day “Keycase” Milne

The late British author, Arthur Hailey is best known for his 1968 novel, Airport, based on a fictional Chicago airport and the book was adapted into a major motion picture starring Burt Lancaster, George Kennedy. Hailey also wrote “Hotel” in 1965 which describes 5 days in the life of a luxury hotel (supposedly the Fairmont) in New Orleans in the early 1960s. One of the main characters is Julius, “Keycase” Milne, a hotel thief who gains entry into the rooms of the fictitious St. Gregory hotel by obtaining keys of the hotels through a variety of devious and illegal means. A must have element of Milne’s modus operandi was the physical key. With the advent of electronic locks, the notion of physically obtaining a key to gain entry into a hotel room became positively ante-diluvian. Electronic (and numberless) key cards that came about in the mid-80s have been a boon for hoteliers. While the electronic cards have sparked (false) concerns based on uninformed reports about personal data being tracked on their electronic strips, they have provided a level of security that has essentially snuffed out the “livelihood” of real and imaginary lock-thieves. That was until sometime early last year. That’s when police in New York’s Rockland County arrested an individual with a device that when inserted into the keycard slot allows the thief to enter the room.

As yet, the workings of the device is unavailable but the thief has struck in at least one hotel in Manhattan and there likely are others on the prowl with similar devices which negate the decade long belief in the electronic lock’s invulnerability based on features such as a thief’s inability to pick them; the near inability to drill to break into and, of course, the ability of a thief to create duplicate keys is eliminated. Electronic lock makers ought to focus asap on thwarting the efficacy of the device as and when details are made available. Till then, hotels will do well to look out for unwanted guests prowling the corridors with malafide intentions.

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Published by

Vijay Dandapani

Co-founder and president of a New York based hotel company for 24 years. Grew the firm to five hotels in Manhattan and also developed a greenfield project at MacArthur airport, New York. Speaker at numerous prestigious forums including Economy Hotels World Asia, Lodging Conference, NYU, Columbia University Real Estate Roundtable, Baruch College's Zicklin School and ALIS. President and ceo of New York City Hotel Association since January 2017.