By Steven Graves

CHICAGO (CBS) — Thieves are targeting Chicago locksmiths for their key fobs and equipment. Now, reports of these thefts are spiking at an alarming rate.

CBS 2’s Steven Graves looked at what neighborhoods are being the hardest hit and what locksmiths say the thefts mean for you at home.

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Steven Gwen, of Keyway Lock & Security in Ashburn, describes the current landscape of the locksmith industry as unpredictable – and not necessarily in a good way.

“Kind of feel some days like it’s a reality show waiting to happen. You never know what’s next,” he said.

He had a real-life scenario play out at his Chicago shop just months ago.

“They broke the windows and all they stole was car programming equipment.”

Both reprogramming devices and key fobs – Chicago Police say are targets for thieves.

Those who call unsuspecting locksmiths and then rob them.

Recently –  the Chicago Police Department tweeted a picture of a device recovered by the Carjacking Task Force.

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We found out key fob thefts are only revving up.

Police department data shows:

  • In 2019 – 0 reports.
  • In 2020 – 19 reports.

And so far, this year – multiply last year’s number five times sitting at 98 reports.

The Near North Side is the third most frequented hot spot for the crime.

West Town – the second, and the most – on the Near West Side.

As police respond to more of these thefts, it might be harder to get a locksmith to respond to you. Some say they are tightening security measures and going out to fewer calls. And that could translate to more money you pay for services.

Gwen – a 12-year locksmith veteran – requires picture ID and proof of ownership before going out. And remember those hotspot neighborhoods? That’s when the calls get screened.

“It makes us a lot more cognizant of where we’re going and who we’re going to go see,” Gwen said.

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Gwen also says his equipment is password protected. Making it near impossible for thieves to use. A key practice he says by licensed locksmiths. Ones who people should always call first to get the job done.