HOW TO ROB A BANK
If you are toying with the idea of robbing a bank vault, here’s some friendly advice: don’t do it. Seriously. While it may be alluringly mischievous to fantasise about ill-gotten riches, the truth is that an attempted heist in 2017 is extremely likely to become a nightmare and land you in a whole heap of trouble with the law.
In fact, the chances of even glimpsing the desired lucre are slim. When our heroes in Going in Style raid the fictional WSB bank, which obligingly has bags of cash on hand, that’s what it is – fiction. This is because technological advances have made prospective targets impregnable to wannabe thieves eyeing a quick buck.
These days, the majority of banks and safe-deposit facilities are veritable mini Fort Knox-type strongholds, armed with a suite of defensive weapons, including motion sensors, continuously-monitored closed-circuit television, fingerprint recognition locks, and a series of steel cages, one inside another. And that’s just for starters.
The UK’s security industry boosted its defences en masse following the Hatton Garden Safe Deposit Company heist in 2015 – when goods worth an estimated £200 million were stolen – which resulted in six of the seven “Old Blaggers” being handed lengthy jail sentences.
According to Chandan Kumar, director of west London-based Heathrow Safe Deposit Limited, a successful copycat robbery would be unthinkable. “All the drilling that happened at Hatton Garden would never be possible at a vault room made by one of the major manufacturers, such as Gunnebo, the company which we used,” he suggests.
“Before we opened in 2013 we took five years to research which manufacturer to use for our security, and we concluded that Gunnebo’s quality, and the level of work that goes into creating these things to keep vault rooms safe, was second to none.
“On top of that, their level of testing was extreme, and they made 100 per cent sure our vault was unassailable from all possible angles. And now we have the highest-graded vault room installed in Europe for public safe deposit lockers.”
Gunnebo, owners of Chubbsafes, “specialises in prefabricated vaults, safes, and safe deposit lockers”, says Tom Rochford, the UK company’s commercial brand director, and has been in the business since 1889. The made-to-order vaults – manufactured for a “wide variety of clients, from financial institutions to pharmaceutical and precious metal companies” – range in cost from £25,000 to £500,000.
Tom Rochford agrees that a repeat of the Hatton Garden robbery is improbable. “The days of concrete poured walls are long gone,” he continues. “Modern vaults are very different and should be tested in independent laboratories to top European standards and graded accordingly. Developments include anti-drilling and explosive protection technology.
“Since the Hatton Garden incident we have seen a significant increase in awareness of the importance of using top-level products and anti-attack protection technology. High-end security includes perimeter protection, access and interlock control, CCTV, biometric recognition, alarms, and motion and vibration detectors. The vibration detection systems should be linked to a separate alarm system on top of the usual alarm monitoring. Our remote monitoring service also offers other clever additions, such as on-site audio warnings.”
“The vaults are manufactured in our Gunnebo factory in Markersdorf, Germany, using high-tech materials, such as steel-reinforced concrete panels, and include the latest anti-drilling and explosive protection technology.”
Present-day vaults – especially those supplied by Gunnebo – appear to be wholly secure, but what extra security elements might be added in the near future? “We are developing, evolving and innovating all the time, guided by crime experts and industry standards, to ensure we are always ahead [of the criminals],” adds Rochford.
So, time to snap out of that bank-robbery reverie, then. Crafty criminals like Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman may make it look relatively easy in the movies, but the reality is very different. You have been warned.
By Oliver Pickup
This article originally appeared in The Daily Telegraph in March 2017