Crime may be up but locks are available

  • 1998-09-24
  • Parker Ruis
VILNIUS - According to the Lithuanian Department of Statistics, the crime rate in Lithuania is consistently creeping higher each year. While the number of various offenses reported in 1996 stood at 68,053, the number increased to 75,816 the following year. Perhaps not by coincidence, the sales of stronger more reliable locks are also on the increase.

While no one would ever claim to be receptive to a rising crime rate, some companies that produce locks are seeing the effects in their cash registers.

Tadeus Orsevski, the Lithuanian director of the Swedish lock producer, Assa, said that after a rough beginning when the company established itself in Lithuania in 1995, business has dramatically picked up. With a 60 to 80 percent jump in sales between 1996 and 1997 and the same increase expected for 1998, Assa's director is positive about the future.

"It was difficult in the beginning," recalled Orsevski. "Assa makes the locks used in the Lithuanian president's residence and those installed in New York's World Trade Center after they had some security lapses. So their price of 500 to 600 litas ($125 to $150) was more expensive than what people were used to here.

Everyone joked at first and said, 'What were you thinking?' We managed to sell only five locks in our first six months here."

According to Orsevski, the increase in buyers for his more expensive locks can be attributed to several factors. Today, more people can afford to buy expensive locks than a few years back, and Orsevski said that the way people think about security is changing.

"Earlier, people had the same old-fashioned view of locks as they did about sausage," said Orsevski. "If sausage was available, a person's only decision was to buy it or not. They had the same attitude about locks. If I have a door, I need a lock. No one considered the quality or different kinds of locks for various uses."

Today, many companies produce high quality locks that are readily available on the local market.

"The variety in quality and price ranges is great," Orsevski said.

While the increase in crime is not rising at a dramatic pace, Orsevski stated it also contributes to sales. Usually, it seems to be the victims of crime who make the move to buy more powerful locks.

"If a person is robbed once, he'll never buy another bad lock. Locks are more important than steel doors and alarm systems should only be used together with quality locks," he explained. "Alarm systems alone signal that something has happened, but do not necessarily prevent a crime. People are becoming more interested in buying locks which give solid protection for 15 to 20 years instead of two or three."

Orsevski explained that the increasingly wide range of locks is only equal to the variety of the thieves' skill level.

While the increase in sales in a company like Assa is apparent, it does not necessarily mean that cheaper locks are being locked out of the market. A Vilnius shop called Kabalda sells a variety of locks from all over the world and says the sale depends upon the clientele.

"We have a variety of all locks," said one Kabalda employee. "Perhaps the best selling are those from the Czech Republic or Germany. The Czech ones are perhaps the cheapest. The more expensive brands are also bought, but only certain people can afford to buy them."