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The Legend (and Reality) Of Great Safecrackers

Posted by Howard Sales on 9/8/2014

Safecrackers generally get a bad reputation, mainly because many safecrackers are breaking into safes that are not theirs and without permission.

Safes are the ultimate in privacy. It is one thing to feel violated when your house or car is broken into, but a safe? Something that is supposed to keep your valuables ... well, safe? When something that is designed to not be compromised, is compromised, there is a real and tangible vulnerability.

But not all safecracking is done for nefarious purposes. However, stories of great safecrackers are often talked about more than the great detectives who caught them. Even if they get caught, their skill is lauded and can become legend.

With that, we want to tell a quick story about three of the greatest known safecrackers - and their very different angles on safecracking:

Roy Saunders. By many accounts, Saunders was the standard by which the quality of safes was measured. The goal was to have safes be "Saunders-proof." He did some good, though, as he often helped local police squads in England by cracking open safes that were part of investigations. His good work went for naught, as he was found guilty of "conspiracy to burgle" in connection with an attempted 1-million-pound jewelry-store robbery in the early 1960s.

Eddie Chapman. He could have been named "Slick Eddie," for he was caught after blowing up 40 safes throughout England in the 1920s and 30s, but he did not go to prison. Instead, he convinced Scotland Yard to let him serve as a double-agent during World War II, where he was able to give the Allies information about the Germans. Not only did he skip prison, he was allowed to keep all the money the Germans paid him for his "espionage."

Jeff Sitar. He is the modern-day Roy Saunders. His "career" started at age 15, and he was determined to turn his talent into a productive, positive career. He has opened safes for museums, banks and the government. His most noteworthy achievement was in 2006, when he opened five safes on an American World War II-era submarine in order to get the documents inside for historians and historical scholars. That work was caught on television cameras. It was a better show than the opening of Al Capone's vault!

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