Legal safecracker

At work

Locksmith Bob DeWeese once cracked a dead man's safe and found $20,000

At work

January 10, 2007|By Nancy Jones-Bonbrest | Nancy Jones-Bonbrest,Special to the Sun

Bob DeWeese

Locksmith/owner

Bear Lock and Security Service, Dundalk

Salary --$65,000 a year

Age --47

Years on the job --26

How he got started --Before becoming a locksmith, DeWeese worked as a mechanic and tow-truck driver. A locksmith company - now out of business - used the gas station and garage that DeWeese worked for to store its company vehicles overnight. DeWeese said he would occasionally ask if they were hiring. When a job opened, he jumped at the opportunity. He worked as a locksmith for eight years before starting his own business in 1988. "I love what I do. This is the kind of business where I meet people because they have a problem. I like solving problems for people."

Typical day --DeWeese specializes in safes and commercial lock work. He also can install, re-key and service most mechanical or electrical locks. DeWeese and his wife, Theresa, run the business. He begins his day about 9 a.m. and finishes his last job by 4:30 p.m. A typical day would include about four jobs. Although he no longer offers 24-hour service, he makes emergency calls - mostly for regular accounts - until 10 p.m. on weeknights, 8:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturdays and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays. "The older I get the less I want to take the night calls. Let the young guys get up at 3 in the morning."

The price for services --Opening a safe costs $175 to $1,500. A service call from DeWeese will cost $60 during regular hours and $90 and up for emergency calls.

Cracking the safe --"Most of the time I can get it opened without drilling it open." About 80 percent of the time, mechanical problems can be worked out through diagnostics. But when a problem can't be fixed, a safe must be drilled open.

Hidden treasures --DeWeese has been called in to open safes for people who buy locked safes at flea markets, estate sales and yard sales. He said people don't realize that it might cost $350 to open it. So far, there have been no treasures found inside. However, one time he was called into an estate settlement, where the children of a Highlandtown homeowner wanted the locksmith to crack a safe under the basement stairs. DeWeese opened it to reveal an "8-inch- high stack of brand-new bills." He said the money dated to the 1920s with a face value of $20,000.

The good --"I get to work with my wife. And it's really interesting. You get to help people."

The bad --"Dealing with people who don't know what the work is worth. They think you're going to come out and open their safe for $50."

Best advice --If a safe is giving you trouble, call a locksmith experienced with safes.

Philosophy on the job --"Treat people the way I would like to be treated. If you do that you can't go wrong."

Training --Maryland doesn't require state certification for locksmiths. DeWeese has been certified as a master locksmith and professional safe technician by the Associated Locksmiths of America. He's also been certified as a journeyman safecracker by the National Safemans Organization.

DeWeese is the northeastern director of the Associated Locksmiths of America and is past president of the Maryland Locksmith Association.

Nancy Jones-Bonbrest Special to The Sun

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