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Lock pick can break into homes and cars in seconds; EXCLUSIVE.

Byline: BY ANUJI VARMA

A MAIL order firm is selling a pounds 20 lock pick which can be used by burglars to break into homes and cars within seconds.

The tool can be purchased with no questions asked from a catalogue circulating in the Midlands, and is delivered to criminals the following day.

The Kwick lock pick comes with instructions on how to gain access to locked houses, offices and filing cabinets. It even lists vehicles it can open, including Chryslers, Fords, Hondas and Volkswagens.

Only a small warning on the packaging hints at possible criminal misuse, stating: "These products are not distributed or intended for illegal use."

But the Government has no plans to outlaw the sales of the tool - despite concerns from the police and the Master Locksmiths Association (MLA).

"I'm afraid that if the burglars can buy it, then they will use it," said MLA spokeswoman Lorraine Stanley. "They will not be deterred by any wording on the package."

The Sunday Mercury purchased the lock pick by placing a telephone order with the catalogue, which we are not naming for crime prevention reasons.

Our reporter was not asked any questions about her background or what her intentions for the tool might be. The device arrived the following day.

After reading simple instructions, we were able to open a locked Mitsubishi car and office door in less than a minute. A filing cabinet took just 10 seconds.

The catalogue also sells an 18-piece lock picking set, priced at pounds 29.99, which includes all styles of levers to open more advanced locks.

Both tools are designed to be used by professional locksmiths but, with no checks, the catalogue company could easily be providing tools for criminals.

"This is an issue that we have been fighting against, and the company involved is well-known to us," Mrs Stanley added. "I have suggested to them in the past that they might restrict their market to bona fide locksmiths.

"Unfortunately, the internet has made security equipment of this nature even more accessible to the general public, and thus also to the criminals."

She added: "We do not approve of the ready availability of these tools and we have made representations to the Security Industry Authority which deals with licensing. "But in the absence of any regulation, this firm is doing nothing illegal. "The only saving grace is that it does take an element of skill to use some of the tools.

"Many assume that the licensing of the private security industry will stamp out the selling on an open market of this type of equipment. But licensing in its present form only covers individuals by way of their training and police records, and does not encompass suppliers of tools or training. "

A West Midlands Police spokeswoman said: "Police do not condone the selling of any items which could potentially encourage people to commit crime."

Labour claims that it is winning the fight against crime - but a Home Office spokesman bizarrely defended the sales of the burglary kits.

"There will be a number of legitimate reasons why people may need to use the kinds of goods sold by such firms, not least because they are locksmiths," he said.

"We have taken soundings with the police and, whilst they do have general concerns, they agree there is little that can be done.

"There is no evidence at this stage of an increase in the use of lock picks to break into premises. We are, however, keeping the situation under review and we have asked to be alerted to any such trends."

The catalogue company refused to comment last night. The American manufacturers of the lock pick were unavailable.

anuji_varma@mrn.co.uk

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Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:May 14, 2006
Words:625
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