Unattached safes not safe from burglars

unattachedsafesnotsafe_1Even though the safe in your home weighs 800 pounds and is large enough to hold a Great Dane, it doesn’t mean determined burglars won’t steal it.

Mike Jagger, president of Kerrisdale-based Provident Security, knows of at least five large safes or vaults stolen from West Side homes in the past year.

“There were two just a couple of weeks ago,” said Jagger. “People find it so shocking how easily vaults are taken out of their homes. They get a false sense of security because the vaults are so big and weigh so much, so they don’t bother securing them.”

Jagger said homeowners assume that because taking a heavy safe into their home without damaging walls was a difficult job, it would be just as hard to get it out. But Jagger noted safes are typically kept in upstairs rooms, so when enterprising thieves want to remove one, they simply push it to the top of the staircase and let it roll. He’s seen stairways severely damaged by such incidents, but none so bad as the aftermath of a burglary he witnessed several years ago when thieves pushed an 800-pound vault down a marble staircase.

“The damage to that staircase was unbelievable,” said Jagger.

Jagger said the two most recent safe thefts in Kerrisdale, attended by Provident, are examples of what can happen when vaults aren’t secured.

In the first incident thieves smashed through a sliding glass door, went straight to the master bedroom and stole the safe from the closet. The safe was at least 500 pounds and the size of a large dog kennel. The break-in took place between 8 p.m. and 2 a.m. Jagger said unfortunately the homeowner had a significant amount of jewelry in the safe. And as with many cases, the safe had never been professionally installed because the homeowner assumed it was far too large and heavy to be stolen. Jagger noted the woman was not a Provident client, but called the company after the break-in.

According to Jagger, the second incident occurred at a home where the alarm system was not armed. The thief gained entry by prying open a basement window and entering the mechanical room where the safe was mounted in a wall. Because of its location in the mechanical room, the safe was in plain sight of anyone who serviced the home’s cable, phone, furnace or water tank. Since nothing else was stolen from the home, Jagger assumes the safe was the target of the burglary.

VPD media liaison Const. Tim Fanning said three safes have been reported stolen from the city’s West Side since June.

“It’s not exactly a rash, but it does happen,” said Fanning.

Fanning said it’s more common for smaller safes to be stolen, but still not typical.

“Most guys who break into homes grab whatever they can shove in their pockets or a backpack,” said Fanning.

Jagger said besides money and jewelry, people tend to keep important documents, such as passports, in their safe because they’re usually fireproof. In some cases people keep jewelry, pictures of their jewelry and the attached assessments in the same safe.

“In that case it might be better to spread those valuables around your house,” he suggested.

Jagger said once the thieves get the safe away from the home, they have all the time they need to get it open.

“Whether that’s prying it open or jamming it open,” said Jagger.

“They’ll pry the hell out of it or they’ll use a torch, but they will get it open,” he said.

Jagger advises that the best security measure when buying a safe is to have it professionally installed. An alarm connection, separate from the home alarm and attached to the safe, is also recommended.

Jagger also recommended homeowners “five-minute proof” the things they love most. Most thieves follow a pattern, starting in the master bedroom searching bedside tables for cash and jewelry, then moving to the living room to grab CDs. If they have time, thieves will then typically hit the office looking for computer equipment. Armed with that information, said Jagger, residents can make it more difficult for thieves to get in and out of their home in a hurry. Securing a safe or vault is one step in stalling burglars.

Fanning agrees.

“The best way to secure a safe is bolt it to the floor and have an alarm system installed,” he said. “Or keep your real valuables in a safe-deposit box.”

Published October 19, 2007 · The Vancouver Courier · Written by Sandra Thomas

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