Saturday, February 9, 2008

Profile: Jerry Hill, locksmith

Posted By on Sat, Feb 9, 2008 at 5:00 PM

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(Photo by Joeff Davis)

Jerry "Cowboy" Hill, a former pro bass fisherman, has seen a lot during his 12 years of locksmithing, from dead bodies in car trunks to convertible owners who call him rather than climbing through their open tops.

Hill says his customers gave him the nickname "Cowboy" due to his attire. "Since they're giving me their money, I go along with it."

"We do what the average locksmith around here can't do," Hill says, due to the $275,000 worth of key blanks, electronic transponders and other equipment crammed into his van.

"You'd be surprised how many people lock their keys in their car at the gas station with the car running, and it turns out the passenger door was unlocked."

"These elderly people in their big Lincoln Continentals, they never lose their keys. But the college kids, you'll make them a key and then six weeks later they'll call you back [for another one]."

"We have people who try to steal cars using a locksmith. We'll get the story, 'It's my sister's; she's up at the store.' And I'll say, 'OK, let's wait for her.'"

Some thieves call Hill after they've stolen a car. "They'll say it's a rental, but you can tell it's already been stolen." He says he then calls the cops and takes his time making a key until they get there.

Hill replaces a lot of electronic car keys that people leave on top of speakers. The magnetic field can deactivate them.

Hill carries a gun, but says he's only been attacked twice and only had to fire once. "There's a one-legged crack dealer in East Point now," he says.

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