For weeks, residents in North Olmsted, Ohio, just outside of Cleveland, couldn’t use their key fobs to open their cars or garage doors.
The problem started in late April, according to WKCY3. The media outlet interviewed resident Cory Branchick, who said when the problem first started she assumed the batter in her key fob had died.
“So, I got a battery and that didn’t work,” she told WKYC3.
“It only happens when I’m only in the driveway,” she added. “Anywhere else when I got to work or when I go to the grocery store, the key fob works.”
Branchick told the outlet that 10 of her neighbors were having the same issue, and residents who lived on other streets in the area were also experiencing the problem. Some residents only had their key fob stop working, others couldn’t operate their garage doors, while still others found both had stopped working
For weeks police looked into the issue – but not before residents ran wild with speculation. Maybe something at the airport was interfering with the device. Maybe NASA was involved.
North Olmsted City Councilman Chris Glassburn said something must be interfering fobs’ radio frequencies and suggested maybe the utility companies’ equipment in the area was responsible. AT&T and First Energy investigated, but found nothing. First Energy even turned off residents’ power, yet the interfering frequency remained.
“We really thought it was going to be the utilities,” Glassburn told WKYC3.
Glassburn said he would continue to investigate.
A week later, residents finally had their answer.
Glassburn had set out with a retired communications employee and searched for the source. Using a de-amplifier, they found the signal and were able to enter the residents’ home with permission from a neighbor. In the home they found a homemade device had been causing the interference.
“It was a man-made custom device that was designed to notify the resident someone was in their home,” Glassburn told WKCY3. “We turned it off and went outside pressed our clickers and everything started working again. It was like magic.”
The resident who created the device had special needs and was unaware of the problems his invention was causing his neighbors, Glassburn told The New York Times.
The councilman said the device causing all the trouble was the size of a shoe box, and hadn’t been properly designed.
“It was putting out a signal continuously and only was the signal interrupted would it tell them another individual was in the part of the home.”
The resident agreed to turn the device off and not make any more. City officials told WKYC3 there was no “malicious intent” on the part of the resident who created the device.
While this may have been a small and simple mystery, it is a good example of a community actually coming together – residents and government – to solve a problem. Glassburn actually stepped out to help his constituents, something rarely seen in higher levels of government today.