City Safe Stolen from Temporary Building

Dec. 6--Marathon Fire Rescue officials may have to rethink using the word "safe" to describe where they keep important supplies, as a locked safe was stolen from the department's temporary offices at Coconut Cay Resort last week.

A safe holding ambulance medication was reportedly taken out of the office but recovered on site. However, another safe containing department keys is still missing and may have been taken days before the burglary was reported on Friday, according to police reports.

Marathon City Manager Mike Puto said the offices, which are housed in hotel units at the north end of the Coconut Cay property on Aviation Boulevard, will soon be outfitted with new security, including an alarm system.

"There are people coming and going at the hotel and in the area, but who really knows who took it," Puto said. "Somehow they would've had to know about the safes, but I don't know how that gets known."

Fire Chief Dale Beaver - just promoted to the job a week ago - said he doubts it was an inside job because of how visible the safes were in the building.

"The safes are kept on the cabinet in the office stacked on top of each other," said Beaver, who estimated the safes' sizes at about 14 inches wide, 14 inches tall, 16 inches deep and weighing 30 to 45 pounds.

"Anybody walking on the canal-side of the office could look in the window and see them," Beaver continued. "I don't think they would've taken them if they knew what was in them."

Beaver said the Monroe County Sheriff's Office is investigating the crime and interviewing Fire Rescue personnel and other witnesses. Divers searched the nearby canal without any findings.

According to a Sheriff's Office report, Fire Rescue office administrator Grace Williams said she noticed the safes were missing Thursday but thought Beaver had moved them without her knowledge.

A Sheriff's Office detective reportedly arrived Friday to retrieve a drug log and then spoke to Beaver, who then noticed the safes were missing.

Williams stated the last time she'd seen anyone enter the safe was on Monday, when Fire Rescue Capt. James Malmquist put new medication in the safe.

Fire Rescue workers then searched the premises and reportedly found the medication safe unopened lying on the ground at the east side of the building. The report states an officer also noticed a window looked like it had been broken into.

Williams stated the office's back door was unlocked when she came to work Friday morning. Although she also used the door Thursday, the report states she wasn't sure if she had to unlock it before opening it.

Puto said the city is offering a $500 reward if someone should happen to find the safe. Beaver said the returned safe will continue to be used but will be placed inside a bigger and stronger new safe.

"We already purchased it. It's roughly 5 feet tall, 18 inches deep and about 2 feet wide, and it's very heavy," Beaver said. "It will be mounted to the floor and to the wall. It would take a jack hammer and a crane to get this one out of here."

Copyright (c) 2006, Florida Keys Keynoter, Marathon Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Business News.