Two years ago, however, the department got two complaints from motorists claiming that their car locks were damaged when officers opened the doors. And they wanted the police department to pay the bills.
Garrity recalled that one of the cases occurred in the evening and involved a woman who had locked her keys in the car and left it running.
The next day, the woman's husband called and wanted the department to pay about $400 in damage, he said.
Since then, Colwyn has joined the list of departments that are saying no to non-emergency cases.
"We used to get over a hundred calls a month," Springfield Police Chief Joseph Stumpf said.
The liability issue and the hours involved in opening doors forced the department to change the policy about two years ago, he said.
Trying to open car doors that have electric locks is taboo in most departments because of the risk of damaging wires.
Nether Providence Police Chief Francis Corbett said his department will still assist motorists in non-emergency situations - provided the cars do not have electric doors or windows.
For cars that are so equipped, many departments just tell the motorists to call a locksmith.
That's welcome news for local locksmiths.
"We take training in how not to damage vehicles," said Dana Barnum, owner of South Penn Lock & Safe Co. in Media, which has benefitted from police referrals.
Barnum said more than 150 locksmiths attended a recent car-opening clinic as part of a convention sponsored by the Greater Philadelphia Locksmith Association.
Since 1980, the lock mechanisms have become more difficult to open, he said.
"Almost every year you have to change tools and techniques of getting in," he said. "We know where to go and what to move."
Barnum said he received between 30 to 50 lockout calls a month, most of them the result of "forgetfulness."
Bruce Seeds, manager of Harvey's Lock Service in Clifton Heights, said it can take 15 to 18 tools to open a vehicle.
"With the cars they build today, you have to have special training," he said.
An inexperienced person can disconnect the linkage in the door or rip out a wire with power windows and doors, the locksmiths said.
The cost to unlock a car door can cost $45 to $75 during the day and $100 at night, Seeds said.
Some of the departments that still routinely help locked-out drivers require that motorists sign releases, relieving the departments of any responsibility for damage.
Lansdowne's Police Department is among those still providing the service, but "the first complaint I get for damages, we're going to knock it out, too," Chief Charles Lausch said.
"It's a Catch-22 situation," he said. "Ninty-nine percent of the folks would thank us . . . but you've got that 1 percent that causes the problem."