Forced Entry: The Direct Approach
How many times have you watched a police television drama unfold with the detective asking whether there were any signs of forced entry? It’s one of the most common initial questions in burglaries, home invasions, rape, and murder. If there was no evidence of forced entry then the speculations abound as to whether the suspect was let in, had a key, or made entry by deception. While there are ways to enter a dwelling without force (which I’ll cover later), today I’ll touch on some of the more direct methods and what evidence is left behind. There are only so many ways to enter a dwelling and most suspects use the obvious routes; doors and windows.
The most common method of defeating a door is the frontal kick. Many times this involves the suspect kicking the door near the knob or handle in an effort to defeat the bolt. It’s not as easy as it looks on television and many crooks will have to kick the door repeatedly to force it open. Another similar technique is called the “mule kick”. The suspect faces away from the door and kicks straight back near the bottom of the door to achieve the same result. They are trying to dislodge the molding around the door frame and forcing free the bolt. In either case you will find shattered pieces of the molding on the floor inside the door and the deadbolt (if engaged) will still be thrown open. With either technique you will obviously be looking for shoe impressions on the door (either midway or low) which may require the use of side lighting.
Another common method is to “shoulder” the door. As it sounds, the suspect rams the door with his/her shoulder in an effort to force the bolt through the frame. If the door or clothing is dirty or wet you may find fabric impressions. In all of these cases (kicking or shouldering) it is common for the suspect to ring the doorbell first. They want to know if anyone is home or if there are any large dogs they might encounter. So swabbing the doorbell might yield a suspect DNA profile. If the surface area of the doorbell is large enough you my even get a partial fingerprint impression.
Doors can also be pried open with the use of a tool like a pry bar. These tools may leave impressions in the door frame which can be compared to the class and individual characteristics of a tool should one be recovered from a suspect. These pry marks may also indicate the type of tool used (screwdriver, knife, pry bar, etc.) and link that crime scene to others where similar tools were used to gain entry.
Less common is the use of a ram. A ram can be anything from a sledge hammer to a vehicle. Vehicles are more commonly used in retail business theft. You have probably noticed stores with large cement pillars outside their front doors. This is to prevent someone from literally driving through the front door. This technique is most commonly seen in thefts from gun stores and jewelry stores. The suspects want to get in and out very quickly after the alarm is sounded and a vehicle (usually stolen) is ideal for smashing through heavy doors and iron bars. The stolen goods are then thrown into the car for a quick getaway before the police arrive (they hope). Of course using a vehicle in such a violent manner is akin to a traffic accident and the suspects may leave behind paint transfers, tire impressions (on the broken glass) and even broken pieces of the vehicle that can be later matched.
We often take windows for granted but unless they are bullet resistant, they don’t offer much protection from bad guys. Assuming they’re locked, a window can be defeated with a simple rock. Usually a landscaping rock from the victim’s own yard! You may be able to get a DNA profile from the rock and on a few occasions I’ve even gotten fingerprints. Suspects entering through a broken window can cut themselves (leaving blood) or catch skin or clothing on the broken edges of the glass leaving behind trace evidence.
Walls and Roofs:
Less common points of forced entry are walls and roofs. These avenues generally require more time and effort but sometimes the bad guy figures its his best way in. A wall can be breached with a ram (as mentioned above) or by cutting with power tools. Roof access is usually through dislodging a vent or small HVAC unit. Sometimes they will smash through a chimney to gain access to an attic or mechanical space. The it is just a matter of smashing through the ceiling. Of course, some suspects forget the ceiling is high above the floor and may suffer serious injuries in a fall. Like the guy in this video they may find themselves locked inside the building with no easy way out. This guy actually had to wait for the cops to arrive!
Posted on December 30, 2012, in The Crime Scene and tagged burglary, Crime Scene, csi, detective, fiction, forced entry, forensics, murder, mystery, police, thriller, tom adair, trace evidence. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.