Reflections of a safecracker

Some interesting reflections from a professional safecracker who works on the right side of the law, helping people and companies that have inadvertently locked themselves out of their own safes. It turns out that some vaults in banks have a ‘time lock’ that once set and the door locked, only unlocks the vault once the required time has elapsed. Such a device caused a panic when a bank executive locked her own child inside the vault.

Here is a bit of the interview with the safecracker.

Q: Do you ever look inside?
A: I NEVER look. It’s none of my business. Involving yourself in people’s private affairs can lead to being subpoenaed in a lawsuit or criminal trial. Besides, I’d prefer not knowing about a client’s drug stash, personal porn, or belly button lint collection.

When I’m done I gather my tools and walk to the truck to write my invoice. Sometimes I’m out of the room before they open it. I don’t want to be nearby if there is a booby trap.

Q: Why would there be a booby trap?
A: The safe owner intentionally uses trip mechanisms, explosives or tear gas devices to “deter” unauthorized entry into his safe. It’s pretty stupid because I have yet to see any signs warning a would-be culprit about the danger.

I found that bit about booby traps interesting. It does not seem to make sense to set up a booby trap and not let a potential burglar know it is there in order to deter him or her, kind of like the home security system signs people post on their lawns. On the other hand, if you do have a sign, that might just make the burglar more careful. The only benefit of not putting a sign seems to be to help catch the burglar after a break-in.


  1. says

    I think both you and the safecracker are missing the psychology behind the booby trap. It’s not to deter people from trying to open the safe. It’s to incapacitate and/or punish them if they succeed.

    In other words, “If somebody breaks into my safe, they’ll pay the price!”

  2. itzac says

    I was thinking the same thing. The booby trap is there to satisfy a sadistic fantasy on the owner’s part. The robber just becomes an unsympathetic victim.

  3. says

    I agree! Placing a boobytrap is NOT a deterrent to safe burglary, it’s an ego-driven, paranoia-induced slap in the face. Dangerous booby-traps are most commonly found on safes owned by gun-owners and also in safes that contain drugs and other contraband.

    These devices, especially the explosive kind, have been known to wreak havoc and take a tool among amateur safecrackers who rely on the less sophisticated methods that would trigger the cruder devices or the abandonment of caution that amateurs frequently succumb to when they think they’ve got a safe beat.

    Ken Doyle
    Advanced Safe & Vault Eng.
    Novato, CA

  4. Emptyell says

    Booby trapped safes? Wow. That’s amazingly stupid. No more I guess than a case I heard of someone rigging a shotgun to the front door in lieu of an alarm system (just googled to be sure – Creighton PA 1975).

    Then there was a guy who told me of his fantasy of building a castle of a house with double walls with steel shutters between rigged to close after the internal alarm is triggered. He never did build it though he had the means and was serious at the time.

  5. Joachim Steuben says

    Totally. All about those depraved, sick gun owners.

    Wish they’d take up stealing people’s property from safes instead of continuing their evil, braindead hobbies.

  6. says

    The negative remarks about gun owners were yours, not mine. I’m a gun owner and shooting enthusiast, but I’m not a fanatic or stupid. You’re the one making blanket assumptions and pronouncements. Stupid, careless people don’t have to be gun owners and gun owners don’t have to be careless and stupid. You seem to be both! If you’re not, I apologize for taking your words as merely sarcastic and snarky. Might be that you’re not a Limbaugh-inspired troll, after all.

    Ken Doyle (author of Safecracker interview)
    Advanced Safe & Vault Eng.
    Novato, CA

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