Front door being opened covertly (no force, damage or visible evidence observed)
Heavy duty padlock unscathed from frangible shotgun shell attempts
L.O.C.T. Associates, LLC provides Covert Entry Specialist Training to law enforcement, government and military personnel only. Agencies and individuals who already conduct covert entries can easily explain the benefits of this type of training for their operators/personnel. However, if covert entry is an unfamiliar field to you, hopefully, the following information will provide a sufficient base-of-knowledge on the benefits this type of training provides.
Who can benefit from using covert entry techniques?
Whether you’re a peace officer, military operator or federal agent, we are all tasked with entering buildings, structures, homes, offices, containers and/or vehicles. As varied as the structures we enter, the reasons for making entries are just as diverse. In law enforcement, personnel often respond to suspected burglaries, alarm calls, welfare checks of the medically ill and/or elderly, parole/probation searches and even yard-to-yard searches for suspects, evidence, etc.
The aforementioned examples don’t even include elevated risk investigations requiring entry, such as: organized crime, narcotics, counter-terrorism, military ops or tactical situations. However, regardless of the reasons for us making entry there is one common denominator, which is guaranteed – at some point, you will be confronted with a locked door, gate, vehicle or container. Every agency should possess training, techniques and equipment to conduct both forced and covert entries, as both are extremely beneficial in different scenarios.
An investigation or search doesn’t have to rise to the level of OCDETF or terrorism for covert entry techniques to be successfully utilized on an almost daily basis. For instance, in 2013 a large law enforcement house-to-house manhunt was conducted by the sheriff’s department, in the Big Bear area, for an ex-police officer wanted for homicide. In speaking with two deputies, who attended our training after the manhunt, they stated having the ability to covertly enter vacant cabins/homes to search would have proven invaluable, during the manhunt. Unfortunately, search teams had to ‘skip’ searching some homes where no one answered the door and there were no physical signs of a forced entry. Unfortunately, the suspect did secrete himself inside a vacant cabin and eventually killed one deputy and seriously wounded another. Covert entry can increase officer safety and/or the element of surprise during operations, such as these.
How do covert entry techniques enhance a unit's existing force entry options?
Whichever profession you’re in, there are numerous ‘forced entry’ breaching techniques available to us. These breaching techniques are invaluable to us, especially during dynamic situations where we’re confronted with secured fortifications, and time is of the essence. Over the past few decades, law enforcement breaching tactics, techniques and equipment have evolved tremendously. SWAT teams and first-responders now have breaching options available, which were once reserved solely for specialized military units, such as: specialized explosive devices, high-tech entry tools and mechanical breaching equipment.
Force is defined as: make a way through or into by physical strength; break open with power or energy.
Forced entry includes the following methods of entry: physical (e.g. pick & ram, door kicking, door pulling, etc.); mechanical (e.g. jamb spreader, bolt cutters, etc.); and explosive (e.g. PETN, C4, ‘det cord,’ frangible rounds, etc.). All of these methods forcefully breach a structure’s or container’s lock system AND produce significant damage to the door, jamb, lock, shackle and/or hasp. The aforementioned methods all have a proper application of use in conducting dynamic entries (e.g. hostage rescues, elevated risk warrant service,
etc.) – however, damage and evidence of an entry will result.
Now, what about situations where a quiet, undetected entry is optimal or ‘no excessive or unnecessary damage to property’ is preferred - over a loud, forceful type of breaching technique?
For example, during a hostage-taking incident: a SWAT team’s covert entry, stealth approach and staging of the rescue team in order to put them closer to the suspect’s location and minimize response/entry time. The ability to covertly insert a team closer to the hostage can greatly increase their speed and element of surprise – two critical elements in conducting a successful hostage rescue operation. Using this type of situation, a louder forceful breaching technique on perimeter doors could put the team at risk, if it is detected by the hostage-taker. Also, what about a counter-terrorist or narcotics team’s need to conduct a ‘sneak & peek’ search warrant on a secure/fortified location for intelligence or to perform a surveillance equipment install - then exit undetected? This is where covert entry training becomes extremely beneficial as a ‘non-forceful’ (no damage) option.
Covert is defined as: clandestine; surreptitious; concealed; hidden.
Entry is defined as: to come or go into.
Covert entry is ‘non-destructive’ and is a category of breaching (a.k.a. clandestine breaching, stealth entry, surreptitious entry) which allows us to enter a locked structure or container and leave ‘no trace’ behind of an entry having been conducted. There is ‘no damage’ to the structure’s or container’s lock system. In fact, the lock system is still ‘operable’ by the target of the investigation/search, so they remain unaware an entry has even taken place.
What are 'Covert Entry Techniques?'
Covert entry is accomplished using techniques, which fall under several categories, such as: lock picking, lock circumvention, lock bypass and/or ‘other’ advanced surreptitious ‘Methods of Entry’ (MOE). While the foundation of our course starts with 'lock picking,' the techniques instructed in the course go well beyond that level. Actual covert entry techniques can be more advanced and don't actually require the use of lock picking to enter a secured area/facility. Our covert entry courses, start with the skill set of lock picking, but also cover the vast array of 'other' techniques used to gain entry surreptitiously and leave no trace of our entry, presence or exit.
What are the 'other' benefits of a covert entry skill-set?
During daily law enforcement patrol operations, covert entry techniques are often used to enter homes and conduct safety checks on subjects with medical conditions, who may need rescue. These techniques have also been used to enter homes where the only resident was found deceased inside. This training has also proven beneficial to officers and K-9 teams, so they can enter locked structures and yards, as opposed to climbing or lifting officers/dogs over fences and walls. Using covert entry techniques reduces the risk of potential injuries to officers and canines.
For agencies tasked with conducting searches (narcotics, gang, probation and parole officers), coming across locked structures & containers is a common occurrence where covert entry techniques are a distinct advantage over force.
Another advantage of covert entry is the ability to minimize or eliminate ‘damage to personal property’ claims filed against an agency when forced entry techniques were used, which
damaged the doors/locks, etc. While the entries are justifiable, these claims are often filed by third parties (e.g. landlords, etc.) and can still be quite costly.
In addition to learning and practicing the skills used to defeat locks, this training also establishes a knowledge-based foundation, which develops an operator's expertise. This expertise can be used to assist investigators with identifying methods, tools and techniques criminals may also be utilizing. We are aware of several cases, where officers and/or investigators overlooked actual covert entry tools, due to a lack-of-knowledge in this arena.
What is target-hardening?
Another benefit of covert entry training is it provides personnel with the ability to ‘assess’ their own structures or facilities for ‘exploitable weaknesses’ in their existing physical security systems and/or procedures in place. This ability is often referred to as ‘target hardening’ or ‘penetration testing.’In regards to this subject matter, if you receive training on how to defeat a lock system - the opposite advantage is the ability to identify the weakness and counter the technique with improvements.
Recently, we were advised by personnel attending our training, they had just been ‘mandated by policy’ to only use an extremely popular government procured lock to secure their weapon’s cases, while in transit. During our training course, we showed them a covert entry bypass technique that actually opened the lock faster than they could open it with the combination. This is a primary example of identifying a weakness, so overall security can be improved and made safer. Often, it’s not necessarily a ‘weak’ lock or system in use, but an identifiable weakness in procedures and/or protocols, which would enable an intruder to gain access to a structure or facility easily. Covert entry training enables us to identify a potential weakness and ‘fix’ the issue, so our facilities, personnel and property can remain safe & secure.
While this information merely serves as a brief overview of covert entry, hopefully, it provides you with a sufficient introduction and background into the benefits of this type of training. The benefits of covert entry techniques are not solely reserved for high level investigations. The same techniques can also be utilized on situations encountered on a daily basis, as well.
Same padlock (above) cut open with a K12 portable saw (evidence of entry clearly evident). This padlock can be opened covertly via several methods
If your team isn't trained in covert entry, how would they enter this secure container without leaving a trace?
Damage left on front door after being forced open
Covert Entry Training
Lock Picking, Circumvention, Bypass & Surreptitious Techniques