SAFECRACKING (Best Kept Secrets)

Given enough time and the right tools, a safecracker can break into just about any safe. Most safes have a combination lock, which can only be unlocked by dialing the correct sequence of numbers. However, safecrackers know many techniques that don’t involve number crunching. Electronic safes have keypads instead of dials, but cracking the digital codesis easy for computer-savvy thieves.

Winning combination

The best way to break into a safe is to know the combination. A surprising number of people forget to change the standard combinations set by the safemakers, or even leave the number written down somewhere.


Sometimes a safecracker may get a bit hot under the collar trying to burn out a lock with an oxyacetylene burner, or, if he has state-of-the-art gear, a plasma cutter or thermic lance.

Rear drilling

The cracker can always drill in through the back. Two holes are needed—one for the borescope, and one for a very long screwdriver to unscrew the lock from the inside.

Blow it up!

A safecracker’s last resort is quick, but it’s also very noisy and may destroy whatever is inside. The thief pours nitroglycerine (a highly explosive liquid) into the door frame. Then he inserts a fuse, lights it, and swiftly stands back.



A good safecracker can work out the correct combination by listening with a stethoscope. Each number in a combination relates to a different wheel, located behind the dial. A cracker can listen for the faint clicks as the wheels are moved into place. When the correct combination is dialed, wheel notches line up and the safe can be opened.


Crackers can spray an electronic keypad with ultraviolet ink, then shine a UV flashlight on it to reveal finger marks.

Diagonal drilling

Another option is to drill down diagonally from above to insert a fiber-optic viewer,called a borescope, for watching the wheels while trying out combinations.

Front drilling

A safecracker may simply drill out the lock. After drilling through to the lock wheels, the cracker inserts a rod to push the fence (bolt) that locks them out-of-the-way.


Of course, if all else fails, a safecracker can always steal the entire safe and crack it in his own time…






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