Associated Press/Tina Fineberg
John Bernieri, right, served sodas with a flourish for children during a Children's Aid Society Thanksgiving feast in New York. Bernieri once served a wealthier clientele fancier meals at Windows on the World, where he was captain of the Dining Room before Sept. 11 this year.By Heather Kronmueller ~ Southeast Missourian
Area locksmiths are bidding for the chance to help absent-minded motorists who have the unfortunate habit of locking their keys in their cars.
And they have good reason to want to be selected. Cape Girardeau Police Department dispatchers average between two and four calls a day from drivers who have locked themselves out of their cars.
Those people used to be able to call the police department and get an officer to jimmy the locks and open the car, but that caused some problems for the department when it needed officers on the streets.
"All other calls would take precedence unless there was an emergency like a child locked inside the car," said Lt. John Davis, director of the auxiliary services division. "About 10 years ago we were approached by some businesses who wanted to provide the services, so now we only open cars if it is an emergency."
Calling locksmiths directly can cost motorists up to $50 per incident.
Davis said to make the process as easy and inexpensive for the citizens as possible the department signed a contract about 10 years ago with the business that offered the lowest bid. Seabaugh's Auto Repair and Wrecker Service agreed to charge motorists in Cape Girardeau $15 a lockout.
The contract has meant when people realized they had inadvertently locked their keys in their cars, they wouldn't have to find a phone book and track down a locksmith. They could still call the police department for help. The only difference was when they called, officers wouldn't drive out -- Seabaugh's would.
Davis said having a contract with one business saves the police department a lot of time. "This way we don't have to keep a list of businesses and make sure we spread around the calls, we just call the one who has the contract," he said.
The Seabaugh's contract expired earlier this month, which left the police department advertising a need for new bidders.
Davis said the bids have to be in by Wednesday and the lowest bid will get the contract. Until the new contract is signed, Seabaugh's will continue to unlock vehicles for $15.
Police Chief Steve Strong said the department is simply a liaison for residents. It doesn't receive any money from the drivers or Seabaugh's; the service is just a way to help the stranded motorists.
"When people go to the mall and in their haste to throw their Christmas packages in their trunk accidentally toss their keys in, we'll call the lockout service and they'll get them unlocked," Strong said.
Motorists are encouraged to call the department's main line when they are locked out, and only use 911 if an emergency is involved.
The department's main phone number is 335-6621.
335-6611, extension 128