Is there anything cooler than the image of a guy dressed in all black sneaking into a secure compound of some kind and using elegant and complex techniques to crack a safe or vault? I submit that there is not, however the sad truth is that despite the popularity of caper movies, the art of safecracking has been in tragic decline since the 1960’s!
Tim Hukin has written an article entitled “Illegal Engineering” in which he covers a great deal of history about safes, safe construction, and and safe cracking. He also goes into detail about how locks (both combination and tumbler based) operate, and can be defeated. Tim is clearly not a locksmith or a safecracker. He even admits that he has never been able to successfully pick a lever lock, which is really not a tough as he makes it sound, so long as you have a nice set of picks. He does, however, clearly and accurately articulate the mechanics behind these devices, and I like his summary of why safecracking is increasingly a dying form of art.
He suggests that:
1) There are fewer and fewer people with the practical skills and confidence to even try to break into a safe. Metal, electronics and wood shops in schools have been transformed into craft studios, where kids make things out of cardboard, not weld and cut steel.
2) Todayâ€™s criminals are more barbaric, and tend to favor relatively crude techniques. They would just rather smash the security system with a brick than learn how to overcome it.
3) The rewards of breaking into a safe have declined. Banks are just not keeping as much money in them as they used to.