Watching a Legal Thief in Action

Sept. 1, 2005
A Long Island summer house gets a security upgrade.

Discovery Channel recently developed a reality series called “It Takes A Thief.” The idea behind this program is to have former professional thieves show how easy it is to break into a residence or commercial establishment. The program has currently concentrated on vulnerable buildings located within approximately 100 miles of New York City.

Episodes usually begin as the former thieves survey different neighborhoods and choose a likely home or business for burglary. The building owners are then contacted and must agree to allow their home or business to be burglarized. Cameras are set up around the building so both the TV audience and the rightful owners can watch the burglary while in progress. Nothing is spared as the thieves remove anything of value such as cars, electronic equipment or jewelry. “Burglars” spend an average of only 10-15 minutes at the scene and then depart with their loot while leaving the premise in shambles.

There are positive redeeming virtues for this mayhem. First, by seeing these burglaries each week on TV, viewers are expected to more consciously consider how to upgrade security in their own dwellings. The program should certainly help boost the sales and service of security products.

The second value to the individual building owner is that the burglarized building is returned to better than its original condition. Frank Santamorena, PSP, is the security consultant for the series. His job is to consult with each building owner and then recommend specific security products according to their needs. Products such as safes, alarm systems and security hardware items are installed to provide added protection for the owner.

Gardall Safe Corporation is one of the companies which donated products for the “It Takes A Thief" series. Ed Baroody, president of Gardall Safe Corporation, graciously invited Locksmith Ledger to visit the location of one “It Takes A Thief” episode and see the building rehabilitation in action. 40 “Thief” episodes were scheduled for this season and this location was the 39th in the series.

The location was a two-hour drive east of New York City in a secluded Long Island area. The burglary had occurred earlier in the week. Our arrival coincided with the day that workmen were installing additional security items as suggested by Santamorena.

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Locksmiths Upgrade Security

Locksmith companies on the scene included Alen Security Locksmith Company from Morristown, NJ. Their job was to install physical security on hinged outer doors and sliding patio doors.

Maffey’s Security Group from Elizabeth, N.J., was responsible for installing an Aiphone JB series electronic security system. Ed Maffey and several of his installers were busy all day as they pulled wires and installed magnetic switches and keypads.

Alen Security replaced existing exterior door locks with Medeco Security Locks. Santamorena suggested Medeco because their residential hardware is esthetically pleasing and each lock includes a Medeco high security key system. Medeco decorative hardware was installed on exterior doors in both the main household and in a remote guest building. Lock systems included keyed knob locks and deadbolt security. Double cylinder deadbolts were installed along with the Medeco captive key system which can be used for security while the house is occupied. This is the owner’s second home, so while the house is vacant, the captive keys can be removed to provide the extra security of a double cylinder deadbolt. Charley-bar units were installed on all sliding patio doors.

Installing A Gun Safe

One challenge for the day was to install a Gardall gun safe. Abetta Safe & Lock, Farmingdale, N.Y., accomplished the task. Victor Napoli Sr and Jr. had just the right equipment for the job. A hydraulic lift tailgate on their truck quickly moved the safe down to ground level. Moving the safe up two sets of outer stairs and into the house was completed with an electrically operated Escalera stair climbing dolly. The dolly easily solved the task of moving this 485-pound safe. One part of the safe move was across a patch of grass. Victor Napoli laid steel plates down to protect the grass and to simplify movement of the safe.

The next procedure was to transfer the safe to the second floor. This required going up a stairway and involved a right angle turn. The stair dolly simplified the job, but it also took some muscle power to rotate the safe into position on the narrow stairway without marring either the walls or flooring. Sheets of cardboard were spread on the floor to prevent any scratches. The Escalera dolly again proved its worth by lifting the safe stair-by-stair to the second floor.

A final obstacle was at the doorway of the second floor closet where the safe was to be installed. The safe cabinet and the doorway were both approximately 24 inches wide. Somebody forgot to take into consideration that the dial, handle and hinges made the safe unit wider than 24 inches. As a result there was a delay while a local carpenter was called. The carpenter removed the closet door frame and the safe finally fit through the opening and into the closet. Short lengths of ½-inch iron pipe were put under the safe as temporary rollers and the safe was pushed into final position in a corner of the closet.

One might argue the merits of showing the public how to break into a building on TV, but it is hard to find fault with the outcome. In the final analysis “It Takes A Thief” attempts to show people how vulnerable their property may be and then finishes the job by demonstrating which type of products can make their property and lives more safe and secure. Positive publicity concerning security and security products is always helpful to anyone connected with the security industry.

Our thanks to Ed Baroody, Frank Santamorena, PCP, and everyone connected with “It Takes A Thief” for their generosity in allowing us to visit this event.

For More Information

For more information on products mentioned in this article, contact your local locksmith distributor or:

Gardall Safe Corporation, phone: 800-722-7233, web site:

Medeco High Security Locks, phone: 800-727-5477, web site:

Aiphone Corporation, phone: 800-692-0200, web site:

Charles Bar-Lok Corp., phone: 708-333-0071, web site: