This story profiles Charlie Santore, a 48-year-old safecracker licensed in the city of Los Angeles. Charlie operates under the name Santore & Son and he goes about his business in a 1997 Mercedes so overloaded with safecracking equipment that its trunk nearly scrapes the ground. The author says:

“I spent more than six months shadowing Santore because I wanted to know what the city looks like through the eyes of a safecracker, a person for whom no vault is an actual barrier and no safe is truly secure. There are a lot of safecrackers, I learned, but the good ones, like Santore, live in a state of magical realism, suspended somewhere between technology and superstition. The safecracker sees what everyone else has been hiding—the stashed cash and jewels, the embarrassing photographs. He is a kind of human X-ray revealing the true, naked secrets of a city.

A good safe technician can pass through sealed bank vaults and open jammed strongboxes after just a few minutes of casual manipulation, using skills that often look more like sleight of hand. But just when I started to think that it was all art, pure finesse, I’d see feats of sheer industrial brutality, watching Santore bore through several inches of heavy metal at a time, aerosolized steel filing past his face like smoke.”

Unlike many Indian promoters, Charlie has already got his succession planning in place: “The son in Santore & Son is Charlie’s kid Louis, 13, who appears now and then on the Instagram feed. Louis Santore is being groomed…to take over the family business.”
Demand for Charlie’s services is so high that he rarely gets a spare minute: “As Santore completes one job, another will arise in the form of frantic phone calls—a jewelry business locked out of its vault, a suburban father whose gun safe no longer operates, an investor flipping houses who discovers a locked safe in the floor of her newest conquest. He even keeps a bulletproof vest in his car trunk for when he’s called out to open an ATM, in case he gets held up for the cash inside.”
What makes Charlie’s career even more interesting is that supply is limited in his industry: “An invaluable resource for the field is a members-only online forum hosted by the National Safecrackers’ Organization. The forum is small, with slightly more than 200 active members, but it is very busy, buzzing most of the day with posts…”


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