Reverse the peephole

Binoculars and scopes alike take the distant and draw them near. Among their many uses, they fulfill their role for surveillance — keeping dangers at a safe distance. But what happens when the dangers are no longer remote but just beyond the few inches of a wooden door?

Back in 2000 Tav Tabacchi, president of Keycuff Products, was approached with an answer: the reverse peephole viewer. Headquartered out of Colorado, Keycuff Products is a division of Secure Concepts LTD and began marketing the Tactical Door Viewer as a precursor to the Tactico. Other products include KeyCuffs, Double KeyCuffs, a KeyCuff restraint system and Vizion 100 fiber scope.

At its core, both the Tactical Door Viewer and Tactico products were designed for the same issue: to allow qualified personnel access through a peephole. Eventually development progressed to include a highly requested optical focus adjustment, as well as other tactical features the original product lacked — thus, the Tactico (a Spanish translation of “tactical”), officially launched March 2011.

A view inside

In an initial look, the concept seems simple enough. Get yourself a peephole, cut it open, spin the optics around, replace in a secure tube. Like the door to an apartment with an illegal growing operation, looks can be deceiving.

At around $80, the device doesn’t have iPad capability, nor is it HD. It cannot record to a DVR, nor have facial recognition software programs been integrated. As the Web site Tactical & Rescue Gear puts it, the device “uses a modified reversed refracting telescope design with high quality glass multi-coated optical lenses and BAK-4 glass paired prism.”

Tabacchi offers some clarity: Just as binoculars take light coming in and magnify it over an optic, Secure Concepts took the magnification part and turned it around creating a narrow beam. “So you’re reversing the optics on it, like the opposite of a binocular,” he says.

However, hindsight is 20/20. “It all sounds simple once you’ve figured it out,” he mentions.

If the temptation to peer out your hotel door into the hallway ever got the best of you, you know that not all peepholes are made the same. “Some are cheap, they are not made really well,” says Tabacchi. As such, users of the original Tactical Door Viewer repeatedly requested an adjustable focus — soon enough, Tabacchi integrated this feature.

Break on through

According to Tabacchi, he’s sold his reverse peephole viewer all around the world, and for an array of customers.

One high-profile customer that seems to always draw a lot of surprise, he says, is British Prince Andrew’s bodyguards. Other customers include law enforcement, bail bondsmen, private detectives, property owners and more.

While the design implies its purpose: to covertly allow the user to see inside — intent can change per use. Law enforcement is able to utilize it while serving a warrant and tactically to check for traps. Alternative uses can include private detective investigations and personal protection. In the larger picture though, Tabacchi sees Tactico for anybody that goes through doors, like SWAT.

“They can look through the door and make sure there’s not a trap or somebody standing behind the door with a shotgun. We’ve had reports of where [users] have seen that kind of stuff; the beauty is they can challenge the guy and stand away from the door,” says Tabacchi.

With such a device privacy issues are always hiding in the dark. For instance, reverse peephole viewers cannot be used to collect evidence — a warrant or reasonable cause is necessary.

Law enforcement are able to use these viewers as a protective measure for officer safety — checking for traps — but it isn’t intended for users to peer into hotel rooms door-to-door. It might be wise to check with local privacy laws to ensure use is within legal permissions.

“There’s a lot of case history about some of these things, like peeking through windows … there’s all kinds of legal cases on those issues,” says Tabacchi. “Initially, people got a little worried … [the attorneys] said if you’re serving a warrant … and you’re going through the door there’s no issue.”