Key Pathway – Use of Toolmark Examinations of
Locks and Keys in the Analysis of
Reported Stolen Vehicles & Other Property Losses.
By Richard Pacheco, Michael O’Shaughnessey, M.S.F.S., Antonio Montiero, FL.IL.
The investigative examination of locks has become a debatable issue in regards to the forensic examination of the interior components. The use of microscopes along with acquired knowledge of the working relationship of keys and how they contact the wafers has allowed a forensic locksmith to document the physical presence of a newly made key, as well as picking, tampering or force as having occurred. This examination is useful in determining if the tool marks and striations present on the contact area at which a key contacts the wafer, known as the key pathway, is consistent with the use, and on some occasions the identification of a specific key as having last operated the lock. This physical evidence can assist law enforcement personnel or other interested party in determining whether a given situation has occurred. The examination of keys also may reveal the presence of tool marks that are indicative of a specific key having been used as a guide in a duplication process to create another key. The technology has evolved into a thorough examination of locks and has now been taken to a level that should be called upon in the future to assist in apprehending a criminal along with proving the innocence of a suspect. The development of the use of the microscopic examination of tool marks in the analysis of locks as a source of information to be used in investigations.
Key pathway, tool marks examinations, forensic science, vehicle theft, insurance fraud The examination of locks to determine if picking or if any other events have occurred has been in existence for some time now. One can find references regarding lock picking and the examination of tool marks made by lock picks and other tools as far back as the mid 70?s (Plumtree 1975). Over time, other advances have been made in the examination of locks. Today the possibility exists as a result of the availability of individuals with specialized training who possess a high degree of knowledge of the internal workings of locks (locksmiths). In some cases it is feasible, in examining pins from a cylinder, to ascertain if it has been picked, and, in some cases, the style pick used to neutralize the cylinder (Glazier 1999), and also in some cases the identification of the actual pick used. The field of investigative locksmiths is expanding and to some degree has also begun to include a new method of examining locks and their internal components. This level of examination has led to a forensic approach to the examination of locks and their internal components in what has become Forensic Locksmithing. Anyone who is involved with this type of examination can attend a class, "Forensic Locksmith" which do Associated Locksmiths of America, Inc. (ALOA), offer.
The examination of locks in order to determine if picking or any other event has occurred has been taken to a higher level of examination, one that includes keys. It is this examination in which not only is a lock being examined, but the keys which operate the lock are also included in the examination. This has become known as a "Key Pathway Analysis". This type of examination, "Key Pathway Analysis" has been conducted on a wide spectrum of locks and keys that are used in many different types of applications, such as residential, commercial, vehicle, boat, padlock, etc. This type of examination is conducted by forensically disassembling the evidence (lock) so as to preserve the integrity of the evidence to be examined; then examining the internal components to observe if any physical evidence is present on them. It should be understood that prior to any disassembly or alteration in any manner, photographs must be taken so as to document the evidence in its original condition. Photographs must also document the process in which the evidence is disassembled. The physical evidence is observable, if present on the evidence to be examined, by the use of a stereoscope. The stereoscope is to be used in conjunction with variable lighting, and the magnification is also variable.
The following is to help the reader understand the basic methodology of the "Key Pathway Analysis". We can begin with examining the lock in order to rule out picking.
Some of the signs to be examined for that would indicate an attempt at picking a lock would be:
As previously stated the "Key Pathway Analysis" also includes the examination of keys.
A microscopic examination using variable lighting along with variable magnification settings should then be conducted of the keys in order to obtain the following information.
Is there any tool marks from the key having served as a guide to make a duplicate? If they are observed establish the following:
Is the wear on the key examined consistent with one of the following:
Was the key created by one of the following methods:
Is the key a gang style key/Asian gang key/New York style key or other
Is the key damaged in any way such as:
The examiner should examine the key for tool marks and striations as a result of a key having served as a guide to make a duplicate, which can be observed on the key as result of the anvil dragging across the cuts and ramps of the key. There are also other tool marks that can be observed on a key that are as result of having been clamped in the jaws of a duplicating machine. Although even if the above physical evidence is observed on a key, the examiner can only document the tool marks and striations observed that are consistent with a duplicate key having been created. If a duplicate key has in fact been created as result of this event, without the suspected duplicate key being present for examination, this can?t be verified.
It should also be noted that there exists a key, which has become known by the following acronyms: Asian gang key, shaved key, New York style key, and gang key. This type of key is designed to manipulate the lock disc tumblers to the sheer line so that the lock core will rotate to either unlock a door or rotate the ignition lock cylinder to the on/run position.
Photo 10: View of "gang style key
The use of this key will leave tool marks on the lock disc tumblers. This key has been primarily used on foreign vehicles such as Toyota, Nissan, etc. and it is successful in mostly the manipulation of locks that contain only 4 depths. It should be understood that it is not restricted to only these types of locks mentioned and therefore mandates to some degree that locks be examined so as to rule out the use of this particular key.
The examiner should commence to examine the pin/wafers along the top and bottom at the outside edges, the wafer deployment channel and the lands of the wafers. The "gang style key" is used similarly to a "jiggle key" whereas it is inserted into the lock and is jiggled side to side and in and out until the lock rotates beyond the locked position. Some of the "gang style keys" are made up of only two depths on one side of the key and being one cut off from the opposing side.
Some of the objectives in this final examination are an attempt to establish if the pin/wafer tumblers do in fact match the keys. Is the wear level observed on the pin/wafer tumbles consistent with the everyday use of the keys submitted? Are there tool marks and striations present on the lands of the pin/wafer tumblers that are not consistent with those observed on the keys themselves, indicating that another key had been used to operate the lock last? Are there unique tool marks and striations that are a result of a specific key examined, thereby allowing the determination of that key having last been used to operate the lock in question?
The following examples are in order to help you understand the examination of the pin/wafer tumblers.
The following information is a basic outline in performing the actual examination.
A microscopic examination using variable lighting along with variable magnification settings should then be conducted of the wafers/pins in order to obtain the following information.
Photographs should document any observations made which are going to be incorporated into the report if at all possible. It should also be noted that other observations might be made that are not listed above. However if they are deemed pertinent to the case and have aided in coming to a conclusion, they should be noted along with any observations and document them in a manner that will be of explanatory assistance to the ultimate conclusion.
Photo 11: Damage to ignition lock wafers as result of force turning the ignition cylinder from the lock position without the use of a key of the proper type.
Photo 12: Tool marks not key in lock related.
Photo 13: Tool marks not key in lock related.
Photo 14: Tool marks not key in lock related.
Photo 15: Tool marks as result of a key having been extracted from the ignition lock cylinder while not in the locked position.
Photo 16: Striations as result of a newly made key having been inserted into ignition lock cylinder.
Photo 17: Striations as result of a newly made key having been inserted into the ignition lock cylinder.
Photo 18: View of ignition lock wafer land consistent with only worn keys of the proper type.
AT THIS POINT the examiner has completed an exhaustive, thorough and systematic examination of all the evidence, which now allows the examiner to make a final determination.
(An article written by permission of E.Lee Griggs titled " Forensic Lock Analysis and Its Relationship to Insurance Fraud Today" appeared in "The HotWire" News Letter in the Fall of 1999 and was later archived in the News Letter section of our Web page. This article disputed the forensics of "Key Pathway Analysis". We have subsequently received an article and information from Richard "Rick" Pacheco, North Eastern Technical Services, P.O. Box 5150, Fall River, Ma 02723, regarding his process. Mr. Pacheco has advised that "Key Pathway Analysis" has been recognized in several courts and has been used by law enforcement in criminal cases. VTI Members Ken Vitty and Glenn Hennings, Sterling Investigative Services, endorse the forensics of "Key Pathway Analysis" finding that it has merit. They have recently been trained and certified in "Key Pathway Analysis" by Rick Pacheco. "Key Pathway Analysis" is a pending trademark of North Eastern Technical Services, P.O. Box 5150, Fall River, Ma 02723 "Keyway Wear Pattern Analysis" is the term used by Ken Vitty and Glenn Hennings to describe their process and is very similar to the process used by Mr. Pacheco.
Mr. Gregg?s article has been removed from the website because it refers to "Key Pathway Analysis" a pending trademark without permission, and provides some information that is questionable and NJ VTI has not been provided supporting documentation.
Mr. Pacheco has graciously provided NJ VTI with his article on "Key Pathway Analysis". This article is very detailed and contains numerous color photographs, which the HotWire would not do justice in it?s current format. Only the first three paragraphs are included in the News Letter, the full article with color photographs is posted here in the Member?s Only Section of our website - Hot Wire Editors)
This information is intended as a guide only. The information has been collected and is based on available published references from many sources, and has not been independently verified by the association or author. WHEN IN DOUBT, CONTACT THE ORIGINAL DEALER OF SALE.
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