The Crackmen’s Lot — and the Safe-Makers

Capitalist prosperity has been very good for the safe-makers. Well-filled order books are reported by all the big manufacturers, and exports have increased considerably. Not a re-assuring piece of news for the burglar, of course, though apparently he’s doing his best to cope, improving his efficiency and competitiveness in the true capitalist spirit. As an interesting little article in the Financial Times stated the other day (18th July):—

“The essential problem for the heavy safe maker is to keep at least one step ahead of the burglar. The number of attacks on safes and strongrooms may not have increased in recent years, but the methods of the burglar have kept pace with scientific advance.
“The safe cracksman to-day may well employ as standard equipment the oxy-acetylene blowpipe, electric drills and explosives.”

Really trying hard to move with the times, one must agree. And, naturally, the safe-makers must do the same.

“The best of modern safes are designed to be resistant against any foreseeable kind of attack. Thus the walls are constructed of several types of different steels, each with its own particular resistant property. Some of these special steels have proved totally impenetrable to the blowpipe.
“Explosive is a common method of attack to-day, especially as a means of shattering the locks. Anti-explosive devices are now provided so that even if the lock is completely destroyed the door will remain firmly closed.”

At the same time, of course, the safe manufacturers must make a lot of security arrangements on their own account. It would never do, for example, to leave a lot of duplicate safe numbers lying about.

“Safe makers are very careful about their own security arrangements. They keep no copies of keys or records, while at their works the safes are known by number only and the customer is never disclosed.
“The choice between combination or key lock is a matter for the customer’s preference. The idea that the burglar can hear a combination lock fall into place is claimed by the makers to be a complete fallacy, however. A four tumbler combination may have 100m. different combinations. The cracksman reduces these odds by trying first obvious numbers, such as dates of birthdays in the owner’s family.”

What with a 100 million different combinations to choose from, steel doors to blow open, no possibility of hearing the tumblers falling into place, plus other such hazards as the local policeman seeing a light or hearing the bang, the cracksman doesn’t seem to have much of a chance. But the manufacturers apparently aren’t so sure.

So unsure are they that they have set themselves a standard of workmanship and reliability. What it is, you’ll never guess.

“The standard which is normally worked to is that the safe or strong-room should resist attack by known methods for a period of four days—the length of the longest bank holiday.”

Henceforth, our Easters and Christmases are going to have added sorrow—the thought of safe-manufacturers lying awake at nights wondering whether their standard is going to last the week end. One thing’s a necessity under capitalism:—a sense of humour!

S. H.

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