By Mike Atkinson | Drive producer and public relations officer
I must admit right off the bat that I’ve locked myself out of my own house more times than I care to remember.
And due to the fact that I’m paranoid about potential thieves trying to second guess where the spare key is (it’s usually under the doormat, FYI) I never got a spare key cut.
One man that never needs a spare key to crack a safe is Richard Harris, owner of MSC Safe Co. He rather flippantly calls himself ‘just a locksmith’ but Richard’s been in the safe cracking game for many decades and has retrieved all sorts of items that were locked away from prying eyes.
“There’s all sorts of weird things. We’ve found stamp collections, little bits of gold, jewellery, pistols, it’s very varied right across the range,” said Richard.
“I opened a safe once at a museum. They didn’t know the contents and it had an elephant skull in!”
Let’s face it, humans are forgetful. How many times have you forgotten your password after changing it? Richard admitted that his core business comes from forgetfulness.
“Humans being humans, they forget codes, they lose keys, they buy a house and find a safe in there. There’s all sorts of things that can simply play up. The safe can malfunction and that’s when we get called out to perform magic and get it open.
“We’re doing that day in day out. There’s a lot of safes in Perth, a lot of wealthy people, a lot of businesses and things go wrong.”
In the world of Hollywood safe cracking is made out to be a piece of cake. Whether it’s wiggling credit card in and out of the lock and huzzah, the door flies open. Just dig out a copy of Oceans 11 or The Italian Job for inspiration.
This begs the question; how hard are real life safes to open? Is it like the movies?
“Sometimes,” said Richard.
“There’s all sorts of equipment coming online all the time, especially with digital stuff. Some of it is like Oceans 11, and some of it is hard work.
“We get a lot of businesses that move out and leave a safe of a vault there, so a new tenant will come along. Depending how long it’s locked for, the longer it is the more the people imagine what’s in there. Historically it’s a 5 cent piece, a paperclip and a rubber band!”
Richard deals with a variety of safes in Australia and admits while some safes take seconds to open, the more secure bank safes can take up to a week to crack.
“There’s some real cheap, nasty safes out there that shouldn’t take you more than 20 seconds. A full on bank safe, you could be there, depending on exactly what’s gone wrong, maybe an hour, maybe 3 days.
“(when asked about how to break in) There’s a thing called manipulation. In theory they can’t make anything perfectly round and we work on those tolerances. So, if I showed you a dial on a safe you’d see 100 numbers but I’m actually looking at 1,000 numbers so we’re working on tenths of a number.
“We can feel differences in the manufacturing and it’s like complicated maths. It’s not for everybody! Some people can thrive on it and others don’t understand it.”
Richard admitted that he doesn’t have a bad word to say about his job and loves the variety being a safe cracker brings to his day-to-day life.
“You just get to meet such a variety of people. I’ve worked in vets where animals have caused problems with floor safes.
“I’ve worked on diamond mines, I’ve worked on submarines. When I get up in the morning I’ve got no idea where I’m going and where I’ll end up at the end of the day.”
And if safe cracking is a career for you, Richard has these tips to help you ‘break in’ to the scene (pardon the terrible pun).
“They can look at the Master Locksmith’s Association. The other thing that I’d be doing would be just calling your local locksmith, introduce yourself and tell them you’re looking for a job.
“They’d start off and do general locksmith’s apprenticeship so that’s cutting keys and making keys to locks and you might end up in an area such as car specialists, safe specialists or access control and alarms.
“Generally they do the four years to get an overall picture of the trade and they jump off into a specialist area.”
Podcast: Richard Harris with Jeziel on Drive