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Investigators, Introducing the Mini Torch

NCJ Number
Fire and Arson Investigator Volume: 47 Issue: 1 Dated: (September 1996) Pages: 19-20
J Gresham
Date Published
2 pages
This article describes a burglary investigation that identified a mini-torch as the tool of entry.
In late 1995 the Greater Vancouver area experienced a number of night-time burglaries in which the point of entry was identified as the locked door handle of an exterior door. In one case, the resident found the door handle of the entry door warm to the touch. Otherwise there was no visible damage to the exterior of the door handle. After experimenting with a number of techniques that might produce the same effects as observed in the defeated locks, the forensic investigators determined that a hand-held butane torch was used. The plastic that forms the internal mechanism of the door handle is made from a Copolymer Acetal (AC) plastic. These polymers are crystalline thermoplastics with extremely high melting points, but are also resilient, strong, and stiff. They melt at 175 degrees C (347 degrees F). The heat of the mini-torch far exceeds this temperature. The types of door handles examined are installed throughout North America in residential homes. Deadbolt construction locks do not melt in a similar manner. Two types of torches are apparently on the market: a rechargeable pencil butane torch and a mini-hand- held butane torch with either the lighter or canister refill. Given the effectiveness of these devices as a burglary tool, consideration should be given to the charge section of the criminal codes for the possession of house-breaking instruments.


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