On the security of locks

We go to various events throughout the year teaching people how to pick locks. There’s a handful of questions that always come up. As I’m reading some of Chubb’s writings, this strikes me as relevant. This comes after the robbing of a jewelers in 1865. We’re often asked, “what lock should I buy?”

Allow us in reply to state that as manufacturers of many thousand safes of various strengths during the last 30 years, we have never known or heard in any instance of our make having been opened by the violence of thieves, although they have been subjected to attacks of every conceivable sort. We have met and baffled every successive phase of safe-breaking as it has arisen. Nor are we alone in this; it is only fair to our competitor, Mr John Tann, of Walbrook, to say that it was one of his excellent safes which preserved the bulk of Mr Johnson’s property.

It stands to common sense that the strength and security of safes and strongrooms should be proportioned to the value of their contents and their liability to attack. What would be quite sufficient as a secure safe for a dwelling house, with people nearly always about, would be absurd for a jeweler’s shop or a bank: and in these latter cases, safe within safe, of the strongest and best make, should always be adopted. Cheap safes are about the dearest things people can buy, notwithstanding the pretentions of their makers.

Without making any absurd claims of perfection, safemakers who understand their business will not be beaten by the thieves, but will make such practical improvements as may become necessary; still, the custodians of valuable property peculiarly liable to the attacks of burglars must remember that extra strength involves additional costs, and that reasonable care and watchfulness should not be dispensed with.

And a short excerpt from another piece.

…it must be understood that the thief seldom attacks the front of the house, particularly if it be on a street, except under peculiar circumstances.

In essence, the answer is: buy the lock that you will lock. For most of us, a thief will either find another way in (e.g. a brick through the window), or they’ll move on. If you have more valuable things to lock up, then spend more money on a nicer lock (I leave the debate of the quality of various locks to the reader).