Tackling blowtorch burglars

The blowtorch burglary phenomenon is nothing new. It has been prevalent in areas around West Yorkshire for several years. Articles in national newspapers have increased awareness in recent weeks, as this crime wave gathers pace and spreads across the north of England.

As a door hardware specialist, we wanted to understand why and how this method of entry works, and what we can do, as a responsible company, to combat it.

While some companies are keen to jump in and say how wonderful their product is against this type of attack, most of what is written is irrelevant and, in some instances, wrong.

Getting the right blowtorch and gas is easy. A 10-minute internet search was all it needed to select the right equipment, it was later purchased from a national trade supplier for under £100.

So far, we have only seen this type of attack on PVC-U doors, especially those at the back of a house. However, in order to gain a thorough overview, we have also attack tested composite and timber doors using the method, and our results confirm that it only affects PVC-U doors.

The idea that the burglar is trying to burn the cylinder out is simply wrong. We have tested a wide variety of cylinders using the method, and only cheap aluminium cylinders and zinc cylinders have an issue. These burn away easily. We have not come across any Kitemarked cylinders that have succumbed to this entry method.

And burglars don’t need to attack the cylinder anyway. There is a far easier method. Once the handle is removed then the blow torch is used to burn away the plastic covering the lock case. And, in cheaper lock systems, the bolt lever above the cylinder case can be simply pushed back with a screwdriver. It’s quick. It’s silent. And it’s effective.

This method of pushing back the lever is not new, it has been around for a long time, and locksmiths have known about this for years.

Quietly, in the background, the likes of Fullex have upgraded their products to future-proof themselves against this form of attack. The patent applied for pawl and gate in all Patio, XL, XLC and 220 pro locks is an example of this and was launched around two years ago. The half shear over the lever on the Fullex Crimebeater multipoint lock was developed at the same time.

We believe there will continue to be a move towards PAS24 and Secured by Design approved door systems. It can be done at a sensible cost but with a huge improvement on security.

What is also clear is that there is a huge opportunity for a retrofit market. Changing the Euro cylinder is not the sole answer but can be a part of the overall solution. Upgrading the doors in-situ, could be done by improving the handle set, Euro cylinder, multipoint lock, and adding extra security like the Dedlok locking system which works without any cylinder needed at all.

Dedlok was developed in the UK by former professional rugby player, Tony Simpson, and his business partner, John Creber. In early 2017, Tony was asked to help his daughter protect her house from a new method of burglary sweeping through her neighbourhood – blowtorch burglary. Later that year, Tony and John had created the European Patent pending locking system, Dedlok.

Over the last 10 years or so there have been huge leaps in door security, but the older PVC-U doors are vulnerable, and cheap locking systems are a risk. UAP has a huge amount of technical experience in door security including the respected Fullex brand, and we are always available to give free advice. UAP is also the sole global licence holder for Dedlok.

David Jennings, CEO, UAP