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Home safe

D IVERSION safes, of course, are not fire resistant and do not even have locks. Their strength is pretense. They cost $5 to $100, and are designed to look like various household objects: a head of iceberg lettuce, a can of soda and a can of shaving cream. Cans, jars and aerosol containers found in pantries and bathroom cabinets are typical. These stealth safes also come disguised as other kinds of things, like surge protectors and clocks.

"They are great for hiding stuff like money and jewelry," said Annie Blanco, marketing coordinator for homesecuritystore.com, an online retailer of home security systems, based in Riverside, Calif.

But Paul Cromwell, a professor of criminology at the University of South Florida Polytechnic in Lakeland, who has interviewed scores of professional burglars in his research, said he is skeptical about their value. "Burglars are looking online at these kinds of safes, too," he said. "So they know what to look for."

Hiding valuables in coat pockets or shoeboxes, in the freezer or buried in the dirt of potted plants, he added, isn't any better. "You may think you're being clever, but these are the first places burglars look."

Criminologists and law enforcement officials also advise against putting things inside toilet tanks and cereal boxes (where addicts tend to hide illegal drugs) and inside medicine cabinets (where thieves look for prescription drugs with resale value). So the last place you want to hide your diamond necklace or a roll of bills is inside an empty bottle of Oxycontin or Adderall.

Apart from a steel-clad safe, he said, the best place to store valuables is one that would take a thief considerable time and effort to find.

"Burglars want to spend as little time as possible in your home," he said. "The average time a professional burglar will spend there is five minutes."

Good options might include putting what you want to protect in a nondescript box surrounded by a pile of junk in the attic, or tucking it into the stuffing of one of a group of stuffed animals.

Sales of Home Safes Surge, Driven by the Recession and Recent Disasters
Published: May 4, 2011
Makers of residential safes say recent events like the mortgage crisis, the tornadoes in the South and the earthquake in Japan are prompting more people to keep their valuables at home.


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