Greensboro, NC -- Go online and you can find how-to videos of universal handcuff keys and easy escapes. And law enforcement is seeing the same trends in person. In Louisiana, police say Delores Navarro used a pair of shoes to smuggle in a key to a friend in prison. The North York City police commissioner is warning officers of the growing trend with a staff memo. And the Florida Fraternal Order of Police passed around a picture of a key in the shape of a ring. They found it on a person suspected of two murders.
Colonel Randy Powers showed 2 Wants to Know universal handcuff keys - universal because he says the Guillford County Sheriff's department often swaps handcuffs with other agencies. But that convenience comes with risks.
"Well you always have the chance that a handcuff key can get lost or somebody can purchase one," Powers said.
Powers says inmates have even tried to make keys in their cell which is why the agency constantly reminds officers to frequently search inmates. Something they wish they had done more thoroughly before convicted murder Keith Jackson escaped in June during transport to the courthouse. Deputies say he used a handcuff key to unlock the shackles around his legs.
Even before this escape happened, the department was phasing in a hinged handcuff. They limit movement more than the chained kind. Deputy Tommy Hurley tried a hinged pair on for us. He's cuffed like a suspect would be... hands behind his back, facing out. He struggled to get the key out of his pocket. So we helped him out and put it in his hand. But Deputy Hurley still couldn't wiggle his way out.
"Well it's very difficult and painful. The handcuffs are tight on the wrist and I couldn't move them," Hurley said.
And even if he could reach the keyhole, it wouldn't be enough. The department uses a secret sequence. So it takes more than a simple key turn to unlock the cuffs.
Other departments have similar policies and use similar techniques. One interesting difference, the Rockingham County's new jail uses a closed circuit tv system for visitation which limits the chance for a key to be smuggled in to an inmate.