Sunday, January 01, 2006

Safecracker's dream

By Monsy Alvarado
December 08, 2005

Others have tried without success to unlock two safes in the submarine Ling that have been closed for 35 years or more.

Clifton resident Jeff Sitar, a world-champion safecracker, expects to be the next.

"They heard that I opened safes without destroying them,'' Sitar said Wednesday. "So I accepted the challenge.''

When he'll tackle the safes on the World War II submarine in Hackensack hasn't been determined, but Sitar says he is eager to decipher the combination locks with his electronic stethoscope and his senses of sight, hearing and touch.

"It really is exciting,'' he said. "It's really a challenge getting into something someone has built to keep people out."

Sitar, 43, was commissioned for the job by officials of the New Jersey Naval Museum. They said a theft at the Ling gift shop last year prompted them to look into opening the safes.

"We tried everything to get into the safes,'' said Mike Accocella, a board member of the museum. "If [Sitar] can't do it, no one can do it, I've been told. I'm feeling positive, very positive about this."

The Ling, a 312-foot-long Balao-class submarine, is the last of the fleet boats that patrolled American shores during World War II. The submarine made one Atlantic patrol before the war ended. Decommissioned in 1946, it was donated to the Submarine Memorial Association in 1971. The vessel arrived in Hackensack in 1973.

Museum officials say they are not sure when the safes, which are in the captain's and executive officer's quarters, were last opened. Some suspect that they were locked right after World War II; others think they were last used during training in the 1960s.

"I don't know if there are any great secrets in there in regards to war activity,'' said Basil Kio, a World War II submarine veteran and president of the Submarine Memorial Association, a non-profit that oversees the museum. "But we are anxious to know what is in there."

X-rays of the safes indicate they contain documents and metal objects. Museum officials said the don't know what the metal objects could be, but that the documents are probably personal effects of crew members, charts, orders or radio codes.

Sitar said that when he opens safes and vaults, he does not reveal the contents. Instead, he usually opens the door a crack and walks away.

"I like to do everything by the book,'' he said.

Sitar began figuring out combinations and unlocking safes when he was a teenager working for a locksmith in Passaic. Since then, he has won the Lockmasters International Safecracking Competition seven times and has done work for police departments, the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administration. Sitar, owner of Superior Safe Co. in Clifton, even opened a safe aboard the Navy cargo ship Bellatrix during Operation Desert Storm.

"I love this job,'' he said. "

Every day, I don't know where I'm going to be or what I'm going to do."



Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home