$3.2 Million Jewelry Store Theft

I’ve written about this sort of thing before:

A robber bored a hole through the wall of jewelry shop and walked off with about 200 luxury watches worth 300 million yen ($3.2 million) in Tokyo’s upscale Ginza district, police said Saturday.

From Secrets and Lies, p. 318:

Threat modeling is, for the most part, ad hoc. You think about the threats until you can’t think of any more, then you stop. And then you’re annoyed and surprised when some attacker thinks of an attack you didn’t. My favorite example is a band of California art thieves that would break into people’s houses by cutting a hole in their walls with a chainsaw. The attacker completely bypassed the threat model of the defender. The countermeasures that the homeowner put in place were door and window alarms; they didn’t make a difference to this attack.

One of the important things to consider in threat modeling is whether the attacker is looking for any victim, or is specifically targeting you. If the attacker is looking for any victim, then countermeasures that make you a less attractive target than other people are generally good enough. If the attacker is specifically targeting you, then you need to consider a greater level of security.

Posted on January 14, 2010 at 12:43 PM55 Comments


jgreco January 14, 2010 1:09 PM

Thankfully major home security-system providers have announced that they will now be selling chainsaw detectors.

jrr January 14, 2010 1:19 PM

The worst part about the chainsaw through the wall attack is that that is a standard way that firefighters use to access a locked house with standard construction. It’s actually faster to go through the wall than to break down the door in many cases.

So it’s not even like they could claim that this was a totally novel attack that nobody ever thought of before; it’s done every day.

Gomez January 14, 2010 2:21 PM

Wow. I heard about crappy American architecture but I never thought it was THAT crappy.

Greek and Roman ruins lasted for centuries. Fast forward and what will visiting aliens see? Naked steel skyscraper frames and concrete.

By Christ we’re a rude species.

HJohn January 14, 2010 2:25 PM

@Gomez at January 14, 2010 2:21 PM

We’re a rude people because someone didn’t make their wall impervious to a chainsaw?

Nevermind, I don’t think I want to know the logic behind that.

Leolo January 14, 2010 2:27 PM

Most construction in North America is gyp-rock, timber framing, plywood, revetement (what is that in english?) A sharp chainsaw would make quick work of this.

However, how many alarm systems don’t have motion detectors?

@Gomez: the majority of Roman buildings didn’t survive. Some did, yes. A few important building were very well built and survived. But most housing felldown / was torn down / burned down.

mcb January 14, 2010 3:19 PM

@ HJohn

“However, how many alarm systems don’t have motion detectors?”

Many home system don’t, which is a cost effective comprimise as most B&Es involve access via doors or windows. Motion sensors are impractical if you have pets, if you care to arm the system while inside the home, or if the sensors are not carefully selected and installed correctly. A system that is even remotely complex or has ever sent a nuisance alarm is frequently not used at all. The good news is your average random burglar will chose another house as soon as he sees the alarm monitoring company sticker on your windows. But, like Bruce sez, if the bad guys care enough to target you personally you and your assets are in much more trouble.

Bruce H January 14, 2010 3:26 PM

Another good burglary deterrent is owning large(ish) dogs, preferably ones that have a loud, mean bark. These address Bruce’s second point. Potential burglars tend to move on to the next house if they hear dogs inside.

However, if you are being specifically targeted, dogs alone may not be enough.

Chris S January 14, 2010 3:36 PM

A downside caution – making your home impervious to firefighters with chainsaws is, in many jurisdictions, illegal.

HJohn January 14, 2010 3:44 PM

@mcb at January 14, 2010 3:19 PM:

@ HJohn
“However, how many alarm systems don’t have motion detectors?”

That statement wasn’t made by me, it was made by Leolo at January 14, 2010 2:27 PM


Axe Dog January 14, 2010 5:21 PM

Another good burglary deterrent is owning large(ish) dogs,
preferably ones that have a loud, mean bark.

And give the dogs chainsaws!

Bryan Feir January 14, 2010 5:42 PM

Motion sensors are impractical if you have pets, if you care to arm the system while inside the home, or if the sensors are not carefully selected and installed correctly.

I don’t disagree with your other points, but just on the second point ‘if you care to arm the system while inside the home’: all of the alarm systems I’ve seen have separate ‘away’ and ‘stay’ modes. So if you’re planning on staying at home, you can arm all the doors and windows but keep the motion detectors turned off.

Of course, that effectively takes care of the first point as well; if you’re leaving the pet at home, you activate that mode, too.

billswift January 14, 2010 6:28 PM

@Chris S
A downside caution – making your home impervious to firefighters with chainsaws is, in many jurisdictions, illegal.

I’m curious where you got that from. Brick and block houses are impervious to chain saws by default, and I used to work for an architectural designer and never heard of anything like that.

billswift January 14, 2010 6:29 PM

I remember hearing in the late 1970s about a garage that was broken into through its cinderblock back wall. So going through the wall definitely isn’t anything new.

Peter January 14, 2010 6:34 PM

The jewelry store theft I can understand; I’ve lost count of how many stories I’ve read about thieves drilling big holes in to bank vaults, etc.

The one about art thieves cutting through exterior walls with a chain saw was news though: obviously the phrase “Not by the hair of my chinny, chin, chin” hasn’t crossed the pond yet 😉

n January 14, 2010 6:39 PM

Going through the wall only works when no one is watching. You can’t fire up a chainsaw in a residential neighborhood most times of day and not expect a police response in short order.

This is the sort of “news” that is stuff you don’t have to worry about by nature of it’s rarity. The first goal of most thieves is not getting caught, which precludes loud power tools or large-scale destructive acts in the majority of cases.

Bob January 14, 2010 7:48 PM

When I was in grad school in the 80s, my research supervisor’s house was burgled in broad daylight on a weekend afternoon. After ringing the doorbell and verifying nobody was home, the burglars smashed the security front door out of its frame with a sledge hammer, ran in and grabbed whatever looked expensive and easy, piled in their car, and tore out of there. It was over far faster than police or security firms could respond. It was apparently a common MO, and the cops pretty much just shrugged.

Mitch Guthman January 14, 2010 9:30 PM

Something does seem a bit odd about this crime. I’ve never heard of a high-end jewelry store putting in a security system without motion detectors in the store and in the vault. I know that vibration detectors have sort of gone out of fashion (except, ironically, in high-end jewelry stores) because people assume that the interior traps will pick up any intruders and have a lower incidence of false alarms but I can’t conceive of a system without any sort of interior traps—and most especially motion detectors.

Also, this isn’t an unexpected attack. In fact, it’s probably the most common way of burglarizing stores (all stores, not just high-end) and vibration detectors on walls and the roof are always considered even if they are commonly rejected in most retail stores in current practice in favor of motion detectors.

By the way, people who build high-end security systems can (and often do) easily accommodate most pets, especially dogs.

Does anybody have more details about when the alarm was installed and whether the thief(s) hit at a time when there was an exceptionally large, valuable quantity of jewelery present? The whole thing seems wrong to me.

Stephanie January 14, 2010 11:25 PM

Wow, sounds like the art thieves knew what they were looking for. They were smart. They knew their targets. Not much can beat good research.

So the target can buy a brick house, spend more on security, or more on insurance. Or stop inviting chain saw artists who carve stumps and moonlight at ADT to your wine and cheese parties.
; )

jgreco January 15, 2010 12:46 AM

@ n at January 14, 2010 6:39 PM

“You can’t fire up a chainsaw in a residential neighborhood most times of day and not expect a police response in short order.”

Do it in the middle of the day when most people are at work, bring a buddy along with a hard-hat and clipboard, and I think you’d be suprized at just how much damage you could do with a chainsaw before anyone called you out on it.

And, as others have mentioned, these types of operations generally work on speed. You don’t have to be subtle when you know you can be long gone before police can respond.

thinker January 15, 2010 1:54 AM

going thru other openings then the doors and windows is nothing new. I have seen shoppig malls where they entered the roof with a normal ladder and used an angle grinder to cut a nice opening in the tin roof.
Best story from germany last year: the noble KADEWE (an expensive shopping centre in Berlin) was broken into through the roof (estimated haul was around 3-5 million euros). They even cought the thieves afterwards but had to set them free in the end(!): they are identical twins and survaillance tapes and genetic evidence could not proof which one was the actual burglar and which one stayed outside and away. Nice stunt.

Nick P January 15, 2010 3:01 AM

This is nothing new and could have been prevented if they bought Bruce’s book. 😉 Joking aside, they should have had motion detectors and some kind of surveillance that activated when motion was detected. Maybe a feed of still images that goes to owners home and has two different transmission mediums. If both go out or motion sensors tripped, then alert occurs. It’s a rather inexpensive way to respond to targeted attacks, assuming the cops have a decent response time. << lol

On the subject of dogs: useless. I don’t think I ever worried about dogs doing a pen test. If I was a real deal thief, there are so many possibilities: tranquilizer-laced food (humane version); poisoned blowgun; bow and arrow; .22 or .45 pistol w/ homemade silencer; gun w/ subsonic ammo and commercial silencer. And so on. Dogs are easy to take out, even silently. They are only good as alarms, except most “watch” dogs make too many false alarms. Even carefully messing with a good one will make owners ignore its barks. Take note of how long it takes for it to stop barking and take it out after that amount of time. Dogs only stop rank amateurs and theives going for easy pickings. Pro’s can take a dog out on the cheap. “Sad, but true.” (source: Metallica)

Clive Robinson January 15, 2010 5:40 AM

@ Bob,

“It was over far faster than police or security firms could respond. It was apparently a common MO, and the cops pretty much just shrugged.”

Yup the Police do a lot of shoulder shrugging in the UK as well especial the Met Police.

One of the fastest and high value crimes in central London is card skiming at or near main stations and transport hubs. The aim is to get the tourists pin number and mag stripe and thus country and other info and pass on via criminal gangs. To avoid Police attention they tend to not attack cards for UK residents.

The Met Polices attitude is the actual crime does not happen on our patch so don’t bother doing anything about it.

Having seen a group of these criminals in action and got their pictures and got the brush off from the Met (who did not even want to see the pictures). I was quite incensed, and I chased the Met Police up on it and effectivly got warned off. So having seen the equipment in use by the skimmers that included a 2.5GHz wireless camera (a Swann Australia product probably bought from Maplin) I and a friend went on to identify any other Cash Points that where “bugged” in this way. We found from simple equipment we purchase (from Maplin 8) that the cash points being attacked where those that where not in “bank walls” but “shop walls” like Sainsburies. We did some follow up and low and behold it turns out that the shop CCTV that overlooks the ATM’s always “magicaly stop working” and have to be replaced as they compleatly malfunction (totaly fried was the expression of one engineer).

So aside from how the criminals destroy the low cost CCTV cameras there is a clear MO on how these criminals work. That is they stop the CCTV overlooking the ATM gets disabled and card skimming very very shortly there after. The skimmers can be seen in action simply by looking for the 2.5GHz video signal of the ATM keypad. Now there are only four 2.5GHz video channels and a battery powered receiver costs less than 150USD.

Now as the Met Police has been told a slightly more expensive piece of kit from Icom (hand held scanner) can pick up local oscilator leakage from the inexpensive receivers the criminals use. And in some cases the leakage has low level modulation that is due to the processing of the video signal it is looking at…

Thus it is quite simple to track down the criminals and the equipment they use to record the user typing in the pin number…

My friend and I actually tracked down these criminal receivers and usually they are in “corner shops” very close to the ATM machine…

Now apparently this makes it “Serious Organised Crime” which is handeled not by the Met Police but SOCA…

So a high value crime effecting thousands of people is not being delt with because various parts of the UK’s LEA’s are passing the buck.

I made the mistake of pushing on this, and a little while later the Met Police smashed my front door down apparently whilst investigating a crime. I have been left with damage to my property that is going to cost a considerable amount to repair (the broke the door, the frame, and the wall holding the door frame) and their attitude is not to answer verbal enquiries, written letters and basicaly are “black holing” the incident so I am being forced to take the Met Police to court…

The moral is the Met Police appear to be there to take money from local tax, bleat about their lack of resources to deal with crime, threaten members of the public who are trying to be procative with prosecution or warn them off.

As was pointed out to me by my friend, it looks like the police are in league with the criminals so they both have a nice little earner out of the tax payer, and don’t want the plebs rocking the boat…

aaawww January 15, 2010 5:51 AM

I don’t really think that firefighter care about alarms. a window is way easier to enter than a door or a wall.

BF Skinner January 15, 2010 6:22 AM

A 16000$(US) watch?! Who would want such a thing when there are servers you could buy that at 16k would rock.

The only watch I could find on a quick search was

“The Rolex Lady Pearlmaster Watch (model 80318) features the Oyster Perpetual Chronometer in 18K gold. The white dial has gold Roman numbers or champagne indices. The bezel is set with 12 diamonds. …watches retail in the range of $16,000. ”

The discussions above re:law enforcement were about US/UK flavors. Not surprising but I understand Japan works differently. Just finished Tokyo Vice by Jake Adelstein which, is very good, and paints an interesting picture of law enforcement we haven’t seen much of.

Peter A. January 15, 2010 7:54 AM


Well, that reminds me of something. In Mazury, a Poland’s lake district, some people have small summer houses. As they are largely unattended during winter, they often have strong doors and barred windows – and buildings in Poland tend to be rather sturdy.

Guess what was locals used to break in? a tractor and a length of steel rope. They simply pulled the bars out of the wall – sometimes along with a section of the wall itself.

The house owners quickly learnt not to leave behind anything even remotely valuable (such as a new-looking carpet) and not to cover their windows so the potential burglars could clearly see there’s nothing of value inside.

kangaroo January 15, 2010 8:34 AM

“Threat modeling is, for the most part, ad hoc”

For the most part? How can it be anything BUT ad-hoc?

Threat-modeling is equivalent to bug-finding — the problem of bug-finding (in the full-scale) is that it’s Goedelizable — aka, halting problem.

Therefore, all threat modeling is going to be “ad-hoc” in the sense you use — you cover all the known threats, try to think up some more, maybe throw the problem at some “testers” who come up with another subset of threats. But in the end, you can not enumerate all threats, since the number of threats approaches infinity, and the number of distinct threats approaches infinity as well.

The best you can do is be as smart as possible, and carefully document for yourself your findings and approaches.

jgreco January 15, 2010 8:43 AM

@Andy in NC

The story about a hole being “bored” into the jewelry store did indeed involve a concrete wall. I think most of the comments here about wall strenth and contruction are in response to the second quotation, about robbers using chainsaws to cut their way into houses (which almost certainly did not have concrete walls).

Anon January 15, 2010 8:53 AM

I had a flat that was burgled by someone entering the loft space from a communal stairwell then smashing through the ceiling of the flat. They broke the door on the way out too but I expect that was easier from the inside…

David January 15, 2010 9:09 AM

@jgreco: In the early 1970s, I lost the key to my bike lock. As it was a very cheap chain and I was only a mile from home, I walked home and got a hacksaw. (I also got enough documentation to prove that I was the bike owner.)

The bike was chained to a rail on a busy intersection at perhaps the busiest time of the day. I was blocking part of the sidewalk, and therefore mildly inconveniencing a fair number of people. Hacksawing through even a cheap chain like that takes time, perhaps ten minutes. I was probably looking nervous.

I sawed through the chain, got the bike out and on the street, and rode home, nobody having said anything at all.

paul January 15, 2010 9:43 AM

I’ve been around a fair number of drills that cut through concrete, and I wouldn’t be surprised if a vibration detector missed one of the bigger water-cooled diamond or carbide versions. They’re not loud, and must of the vibrating they do is in frequencies that might well match traffic or other sources of false positives. (And if you have an overnight period to do your work you don’t have to drill fast at all.)

fantazma January 15, 2010 9:54 AM

@Clive Robinson

Your experience is something right out of Terry Gilliam’s Brazil. My sympathies.

mcb January 15, 2010 11:27 AM

@ Bryan Feir

“…if you’re planning on staying at home, you can arm all the doors and windows but keep the motion detectors turned off.

…if you’re leaving the pet at home, you activate that mode, too.”

After three decades in the trade my professional experience suggests that level of complexity is beyond the comfort/competence level of the average homeowner. By comparison setting the clock on one’s VCR was slightly more complicated, but you only had to do it once…12:00…12:00…12:00…

Nick P January 15, 2010 1:09 PM

@ Clive

Wasn’t familiar with Icom. Now I have their Pro scanner bookmarked. Nice. 😉 As for the thieves, did you ever bust them or otherwise disrupt their operations? If I was in your situation, with sophisticated crooks and cops threatening me, I’d probably feel the need to mess with the crooks a bit. Maybe forge some data or tamper with their equipment to make their life more difficult. I’d then just sit and wait for the guy doing maintenance. The rest is confidential (and entirely legal). {crooked grin}

I have been in a similar situation. I knew a bunch of criminal hackers in high school who broke into systems for fun. Our group didn’t cause any real damage: just left evidence we were there and usually how to fix the problem. We would find 5-letter dictionary passwords, ridiculous configurations and worse on bank computers. When we emailed them about the flaw the response was inevitably: “You little sons of b****! We’re going to find you, hunt you down! How dare you mess with our network!” Many of them didn’t even fix the vulnerabilities. Tens of thousands of people were at risk and the organizations charged with their safety didn’t care one bit. Apparently, there wasn’t a law against it either: feds were more interested in us than them. Those days long past and info security has improved a lot, but the same systemic problems still exist and give me headaches to this day.

Teek January 15, 2010 3:08 PM

Chainsaws will cut breezeblocks (cinderblocks) if you don’t mind knackering the chains relatively quickly.

If you do, get a tungstin-carbide tipped chain. Although you might find it easier to use a large angle-grinder with a diamond blade. They are by far the quickest way to put in a new door into an existing wall (solid brick or even stone).

Nearly any roof can be levered up at one corner with a suitable “lever” like a 36″ crowbar, or a bit of sharpened rebar, or one of those stakes they drive into the ground around holes in the road that they tie warning tape around.

If you can think in new ways and know a little of the buildings construction, then most security is frighteningly easy to bypass.

Many of the oldest tricks, like treacle and brown paper still work, so I feel uncomfortable saying too much as hopefully most criminals will have forgotten many of the old methods, looking for more modern things like just ringing your bell and a gang rush the door, pushing you back and clearing everything of value out within one minute, before any help or security can respond.

Grande Mocha January 15, 2010 10:57 PM

About dogs…

I grew up on a small family farm, and we had some big dogs. One day one of our dogs got sick. We took it to the vet. The vet said it looked like the dog had ingested some antifreeze. The vet chastised us for leaving dangerous chemicals about on the farm.

The next Sunday, while the family was at church, a group of thieves broke into the barn and stole about $50,000 worth of farm equipment. (Insurance only covered about half of the replacement value because many of the tools were passed down from my grandfather, and we didn’t have adequate records documenting their existence.) We found our other big dog injured and cowering in fear.

So, while a big scary dog will intimidate most of us if we run into it unexpectedly, I don’t think a dog is much protection against a determined and prepared human.

Nick P January 16, 2010 1:07 AM

@ Grande Mocha

Nice anecdote. Sorry to hear about the dogs, though. I hate animal abuse. 🙁 I think another interesting aspect of your story was the value of the equipment. Let’s say that, in theory, they expected the attack to pay off well and knew you had dogs. In this case, it would be a targeted attack with high rewards. You would expect attackers in such a scenario to be prepared and motivated to deal with dogs. In such an attack, the normal defenses usually don’t work. Especially deterrent-type defenses.

It’s just like my medium-to-high assurance IT research. Defending high value assets against sophisticated or highly motivated attackers requires a much higher level of assurance than usual. If one is using a low assurance approach in such a situation, the security is destined to fail and the assets lost.

Clive Robinson January 16, 2010 2:47 AM

@ Nick P,

“As for the thieves, did you ever bust them or otherwise disrupt their operations?”

The two I initialy saw would make even the most hardend of “Albanian Death Wrestlers” a little cautious.

After working out their MO I could see numerous holes in what they where doing technology wise.

For instance there where two glaring weaknesses with their technology. This was due to what they had to do to get it on the front of an ATM.

The first and silliest is that they did not seal the case thus a hypo full of salt water would have ruined their day. Simpler and very very effective well chewed gum and a finger to push it through the small hole the camera looked out from. However these are both very quickly obvious to the criminals who showed they could get quite “mody” by physicaly throwing some one using the ATM across the pavement into a very busy street (outside the Sainsbury’s store near Victoria railway station).

More difficult for them to detect but more effective is a strong source of static on a “dipping card” to blow a significant hole in the “barber pole” magnetic sensor they used for reading the ABA stripes on the back of the cards.

The down side of dealing with them is that though they did not have much of a clue about securing their electronics against direct attacks. They very much understood as do many street criminals physical protection security. However the downside is it makes them easy to spot (same as drug dealers prootection) when you know what to look for (A couple of shaved gorrilers in shell or track suits just hanging around apparently chatting but always one of them looking at the ATM 😉

It got to the point where my friend could (with just the Mk1 eye ball) say that an ATM was likley to be vulnerable due to it’s locational set up. And just by another casual glance tell which shop the criminals would be working out of and if they where actualy there or not at the time.

The thing is these people might look as “dumb as an ox” but invariably there is somebody with brains in the organisation.

How long before they realise they are being attacked and set up a video recorder on the ATM. Two or three attacks would give them a very very short list of people to look out for and thus “assist on their way to a better place” as it where…

Funny thing is after getting the “hinky smarts” you very quickly know what to look out for over the rim of a cup of coffee etc in Starbucks etc. You can spot those who are either learning or amaturs, the semi pro’s or LEO’s, and occasionaly the real pro’s. Watcher’s tend to forget they may being watched and the process of watching gives it’s self away, if you ever spend time watching cats you know from their body language when they are on the sent or just mooching, it’s the same with all hunters on the stalk.

It gets to be almost instinctive and you start thinking you are being paranoid when you get an uneasy feeling. Take it from me your body knows better than your brain and when your gut twitches it’s time to be somewhere else real fast (but go slowly if you know what I mean 😉

Clive Robinson January 16, 2010 4:51 AM

@ Teek,

“Nearly any roof can be levered up at one corner with a suitable “lever””

A similar sort of story from Israel but on a bigger scale (as the often are)…

British Airways had a representative over there who was a relation of a friend of mine. He also did a bit of security on the side just to keep his hand in for old times sake as it were.

As a consiquence he used to find out a lot of things the Israeli Gov and other Institutions did not want well known (El Al and graffiti put on their planes whilst under guard by the IDF for instance).

Well he tells an ironic and wry story about why you cannot keep the burglers out if the reward is high enough.

There was a wealthy “business” man who had a passion for fine women and even finer art, the first he liked young the second old. He was also smart enough to know you cannot have some of the world’s more desirable or colectable items around without a reasonable level of protection.

After taking some advice he called in a team to wire the place up and spread a little less than obvious rebar etc around for his very own “Villa Knox”.

This was done by what he was lead to belive where “top profesionals” (who’s sales people would drop hint’s they had Ex-CIA spooks etc working for them so they must be good 😉

Well the guy got cleaned out one day when he was away “on business” with an assistant.

The criminals simplly turned up with appropriate construction equipment and lifted the entire roof of the house…

Every time I think of it the (very very old ) Tommy Cooper joke comes to mind,

“There I was the other night sitting there, as you do… looking up at the stars, as you do… and I thought that’s odd, as you do… then I realised someody had nicked the toilet roof” 8)

Jonadab the Unsightly One January 16, 2010 7:59 AM

One of the important things to consider
in threat modeling is whether the attacker
is looking for any victim, or is specifically
targeting you.

This is very important in computer and network security, as well. Defending against worms and viruses and similar generic attacks is relatively easy, and for many people that’s all that is really necessary. (It’s all I’ve ever needed to date, both at home and at work.) But if you have more significant assets to protect then you have to do more.

Motion sensors are impractical if you have pets,

Depending on the pets, and on how the motion sensors are aimed.

if you care to arm the system while inside

Most systems have a time delay after you arm them, to give you time to leave. The (really cheap) one we have at work gives you two full minutes, which ought to be plenty for all but the most excessively enormous homes.

or if the sensors are not carefully
selected and installed correctly.

I am comfortable stating categorically that any security measure can be rendered worthless by inappropriate application or improper installation.

However, if you are being specifically
targeted, dogs alone may not be enough.

That’s a great example. Dogs are, technically, pretty easy to neutralize. But they do create certain risks (most notably, that humans will be alerted to what is going on), so a house without dogs is going to be an easier target (all else being equal).

You can’t fire up a chainsaw in a
residential neighborhood most times
of day and not expect a police response

In most cases, people with a lot of valuable art in their homes don’t live that close to the neighbors. And yes, they should have taken that into account when planning their security measures.

It’s also notable that there’s a big difference between neighbors who know you personally and know your habits, versus neighbors who are vaguely aware that somebody might live next door. All residential neighborhoods are not created equal. Where I live, if random strangers pull up to my house in a moving van and start loading everything into it, and nobody who lives here is present, the neighbors are going to notice and probably call the police. (If the random strangers were wearing moving-company uniforms that match the truck, then they might get away with it, but even then they’d be taking a pretty big risk of getting caught.) But there are plenty of neighborhoods, particularly in larger cities, where you can’t count on that.

Carshare January 17, 2010 5:20 PM

This is only tangentially related. Back in the late 1980’s I had a racing bicycle but always forgot to take my cycle lock with me when I went into the city (fairly rough, crime ridden place), so I always had to think of somewhere to place my bike where it wouldn’t get stolen. I based this purely on how I thought a criminal would think, I would hoist the bike up onto a lampost (too visible and high profile for a crim), put it into a business’s foyer (looked like a courier or employee’s bike), place it next to an open air food stall (crims might assume it belonged to the food stall owner). In my 2 years there I never had my bike stolen whereas many kept in standard bike racks were, locks cut off etc. It’s often just about thinking laterally and totally thinking as a criminal might.

Jerrod Hansen January 17, 2010 7:56 PM

Carshare, you reminded me of an experience I had in college.

I worked at a liquor store in Minneapolis in a not-too-nice neighborhood. We had a cop in the store on Fridays, Saturdays, and the first of the month (when welfare checks got cashed) just to keep things cool. Customers recovering from gunshot wounds and I’d even seen regulars on the news wanted in connection to multiple homicides.

One Saturday night as we left the store, I realized that I didn’t have my car keys on me. It was impossible to reopen the store once it was locked and secured, so I caught I ride home with a coworker, then came back the next day (closed on Sundays) with my spare set. As I walked up to my car, I was stunned to see my keys hanging out of the passenger door lock.

I suddenly remembered that I’d gone out to my car during work on Saturday to get something from the glove box and had opened the car from the passenger side. I had left the keys in the lock without realizing it.

Now, my car was parked in front of the store but on the edge of the lot, near a corner with a couple bus stops. There were also two pay phones about 15 feet away. My unprotected car had sat there all during the evening hours of high traffic in the parking lot as well as all night long near the phones. Yet it was entirely unmolested; no one had been in it, stereo was intact, etc.

While it’s possible that it was common knowledge that the car was associated with the liquor store and thus wasn’t messed with (we had a great relationship with the community and had never been robbed over its 40 some years of business), I’m convinced that the whole situation looked like a setup that kept people from minimally getting into the car, much less driving off with it.

Ronald Pottol January 17, 2010 11:13 PM

As far as the gypsum and wood frame construction in the USA, yes, you can chainsaw through it quick, but it handles earthquakes quite well.

From less than a mile from the Hayward fault, just across the bay from the San Andreas fault.

MichaeltheG January 18, 2010 2:22 AM

That was a clever bit of thieving.

I too find it odd that the vault didn’t have internal motion sensors. Of course, if you are willing to go to the trouble of coring a hole in a block wall (takes about a minute if you don’t care about being kinda’ loud FYI) but as for gaining entry into a residence with a chainsaw? Yeah, it would probably work but would be REALLY freaking dangerous for the operator. That’s why we have these guys. Quick, powerful, safe. http://us.husqvarnacp.com/node1552.aspx?nid=81105&pid=10750

Oh, and yes Hardhats and clipboards go a long way towards respectability. Heck, a tool belt and a pick-up truck will pass muster most places in the states as long as the thief doesn’t take too long.

Toby January 21, 2010 6:33 AM

To add to the “will chainsaws go through concrete” question, my local tool shop sells chainsaws and / or chains with diamond coated blades. Not cheap mind you, but they claim to go through 14″ thick reinforced concrete with relative ease.

Clay Dowling January 21, 2010 2:03 PM

Okay, who here has a house that won’t succumb to a determined bugger with a sledge hammer, steel toed boots and a saw? Unless you’re building the walls with reinforced concrete, which is not a desirable residential building material, those three tools will get in. Fairly quickly, and quietly enough so as not to draw too much attention. With those three tools I can tear your whole house down, let alone get inside.

The saw I use depends on the material. If it’s stone or block, I use a diamond saw. If it’s wood, I use a chain saw.

All of this stuff is cheap and readily available. I have all of it. Luckily for you, I also have a day job, rather than burgling your house.

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