Lock Snapping is a method used by home invaders which involves snapping a particular type of lock cylinder,allowing the burglar to quickly and easily gain access to your home.
Video Transcript | Lock Snapping - The Euro Cylinder Lock Vulnerability (Inside Out - BBC - 20th Febuary 2012)
West Yorkshire has the highest burglary rates in the country and there's a particular type of break in that started here in Bradford that's on the increase. As I've been finding out, there's a lock thats been fitted to millions of homes up and down the country that can be broken in seconds.
"My one wish would be to get rid of all the cylinders, they're very weak, they're still selling them at DIY stores"
"He said ; the laptops have gone, the Mobiles have gone, everything's gone. The Xbox has gone ... everything that was down here, it was terrible."
"Believe me or not it will only take two minutes thirty-seconds to go through a whole house"
This is an increasingly familiar sight for scenes of crime officers across West Yorkshire.
"It's about three o'clock this morning and I woke up because I heard a loud bang, so I went to wake up my boyfriend, he got up and went downstairs, we had look outside the window but we couldn;t, sort of, see anyone around am so we went back to bed and didn;t think much more of it. When we got up this morning to go to work, we opened the front door and we found that the outside of the front door lock had actually been prised open or Jimmied open.
"Rebecca is by no means alone, locksmiths working for this security firm reckon they've been called out almost every day to break-ins where the lock has been snapped."
The policeman came around thismorning and Had a look at the lock and he explained that really it was a more old-fashioned type of lock and he was the one who recommended that we actually had the new style of lock put in.
"This is what's called a euro profile lock, fitted to millions of homes across the country, usually in uPVC doors,now, the problem is that some burglars have discovered how easy it is to break them and walk-in through your front door."
Lock snapping first started in the Bradford area and now more than a quarter of all burglaries in West Yorkshire use this method. Peter Findlay is a career burglar who has recently been released from prison, he says he's now going straight but reckons he's burgled literally thousands of homes, so what does he make of the euro cylinder locks?
"If I had the best lock picks in England I wouldn;t bother using them, snap the lock, it's more simpler, quicker."
And it's a problem that's growing, since 2009 the figures for this type of burglary have risen steadily in West Yorkshire, so what can be done about it?
If you're not sure about the standard and quality of you Locks Contact your local crime reduction officer who will provide advice free of charge and think about getting in touch with one of the not-for-profit organizations, of which there are a number in West Yorkshire alone.
The Association of Chief Police Officers are working with the door and lock industries to come up with a new British standards for locks but at the moment there are no locks on the market which come up to the new standard.
The locks are vulnerable to this specific type of attack but it can take anything between 50 seconds and and and two minutes to force the lock what we want to do is ensure that the new British Standard locks are a lot stronger than that and can resist attack.
I wouldn't wanna put a specific time frame on it but certainly the testing is extensive and the new locks are now in the process of being tested.
So, between fifty seconds and two minutes, we've been told that many of these locks can be broken a lot quicker than that, time to find out.
To demonstrate just how easy it is to break into one of these locks, we've brought in a former burglar who's now a security expert and he's going to show us how it's done and we're going to time it.
A member of the public has allowed us to test the theory on their front door. Okay, the doors locked so, Michael you're happy with what you're doing - "yep" - now we're not going to show exactly how you break in, but ready when you are. Off you go.
(Former burglar walks up to the door and using tools hidden under his clothing, begins to attempt to break in)
15 seconds so far
"Michael that was 42 seconds"
"That was slow, very slow"
"How easy is it to get in?"
"To be honest with you, I was very very surprised how easy it was because that broke off the cylinder so easy, and all I had to do then is actually take the mechanism out."
"That really shows just how easy it is to get in."
"It's amazing, absolutely amazing when you look at the security on the actually locking and yet you can get through that cylinder so easy. Totally amazed."
42 seconds, and to be fair, this isn't something you're doing everyday either is it?
someone who knows what they're doing, I mean who knows how fast I could have been?
"I reckon you could cut that down to 15 seconds.."
"Really? That's quite worrying isn't it.
We've arranged for a security company to fix the households broken lock, the managing director is not at all surprised at how quickly michael was able to get in.
"He just breezed through, his first time he actually attempted to do that and as he says he was very very shocked."
So, if you took this kind of lock out of circulation would that go a long way to helping?
"Yes, my one whish would be to get rid of all these cylinders but that's easier said than done.
"Although many councils and housing associations have lock replacement programs there are still hundreds of thousands of these euro cylinder locks on homes across Yorkshire.
What's being done about the problem? Well, we've come to the master locksmiths Association to find out. At this testing facility in Northamptonshire they put new locks through a series of tests.
"Typically that lock will be operated either 30,000 50,000 or a 100,000 times."
"So this is all just about checking new locks when it comes to the door."
"Absolutely, this is just pure durability. Just really put it through the paces and then after you've done whatever number of operations you want to do then we try re-keying it just to make sure it's all operating okay."
"This is what's called a torsion machine this thing either twists things or pulls things apart or pushes them together, we've actually set this one up to do a pull test on a lock cylinder. The lock cylinder is down here if you can see that, this part remains static, this part is actually pulling that way trying to remove the plug out of the cylinder."
"So this is basically testing what happens when someone is attempting to pull a lock apart."
"So when you're testing a lock your taking the same approach that a burglar might take?"
"Yeah, we replicate that using certain tools and we just want to see that that lock performs to a certain level. The idea behind that is obviously to delay any kind of burglar who wants to get into the property, we want to slow them down as much as we possibly can."
"But unfortunately there are still plenty of euro cylinder locks out there, only a couple of days after to Rebecca was burgled, locksmiths are busy attending another lock snapping burglary.
Christine had thought her locks were secure, but she certainly doesn't now.
"I was a advised this morning that if I had to go through my insurance company then they would probably do like-for-like. I wasn't happy at the thought of that because I wouldn't feel safe in this house if the person fitted the same locks back on. So I just made some enquiries and got these put in. (ant-snap locks)"
With so many locks on the market it can be confusing, so if you're not sure about how good your locks are the best advice is to talk to a local crime reduction officer.
Lock Snapping has become more common over recent years as it requires no special tools or expert knowledge, just the force of a hammer, mole grips or anything else that can physically grab and take hold of a cylinder is enough to gain entry. Many readily available video's online show the shocking force, speed and ease of the technique that burglars are using to break into homes up and down the country. One online video that we've seen shows how burglars will gain access to a cylinder even if it isn't protruding from the handle. In this case the handle is shown literally being ripped off of the door, the cylinder exposed and the locking mechanism compromised using household tools such as a hammer and screwdriver.
Other security measures that are in place on your door including shoot-bolts, dead-bolts, roller keeps and anti lift bars are made useless because once the lock cylinder is snapped and removed from your door the burglar can access the locking mechanism using a screwdriver or similar tools. Once the locking mechanism is bypassed your door will be unlocked and provide easy access, thiefs have even been known to break into houses with alarms installed using this technique due to the speed of entry.
A recent short tv documentary showed how a former burlgar, without previous experience of snapping locks, could use this method to gain access to a property within 40 seconds, even he admitted how shocked he was at the ease and speed of gaining access, he said that an experienced lock snapper could probably gain access in as little as 15 seconds [Lock Snapping Video]. Another former burglar admitted that even if he had the best lock picks in England, he would rather snap the cylinder because "it's simpler and easier".
Police have said it's estimated that around 22 million doors throughout the UK could be at risk from lock snapping where the lock cylinder can be broken in seconds.
A Typical Cylinder That Has Been Snapped
Key locks that are at risk of lock snapping are those of Euro Cylinder profiles, and locks that extend beyond 3mm of the handle. The further the lock cylinder protrudes from the door the more prone to tampering it becomes as it is easier to grip and take hold of, but even if a lock cylinder doesn't protrude from the handle it still isn't immune to tampering.
Euro Cylinders are usually found in uPVC doors. Different types of Euro Cylinder include : The Single Cylinder, which provides key access from one side only, The Double Cylinder which provides key access from the front and back of the door and The Double Cylinder with Thumbturn which has key access from one side and uses a thumbturn on the other side of the door. The cylinders are available with different types of locking mechanisms, these could be disc tumbler, pin tumbler, and wafer tumbler locks. Cylinder Locks can come in different sizes and profiles to suit particular door sizes, but the profile prone to lock snapping by burglars is known as the Euro Profile.
West Yorkshire Police have recently confirmed that 25% of burglaries and break ins they've come across have occurred using the Lock Snapping technique, it's also been reported that "phoney locksmiths" have been installing vulnerable locks that are easy to snap, so they can use this as an access point to homes at a later date.
Locks that are of a TS007 3 Star standard (also known as 'anti-snap' cylinders) are locks that meet the requirements to withstand lock snapping attempts.
Anti-Snap cylinders have a 'snap-off' section integrated which will come away if a burglar was to try and snap the lock, making the cylinder shorter, thus making it more difficult to grasp. With the help of built in grip defenders it makes getting hold of the cylinder even harder. Not only that but anti-snap locks have a hardened bar which wont snap, it will only flex making snapping almost impossible.
Check that your current locks do not over extend. If they appear vulnerable you may want to consider having them replaced.
We can fit anti-snap locks to your doors to protect you from this type of attack, Call us on 0800 0612 677 for a free, no obligation quote.