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View Full Version : I need to rob a museum...



Madison
04-15-2008, 04:01 AM
...but I can't figure out how.

The internet has a wealth of info about museum security, but next to nothing about bypassing it. Even googling 'tips on robbing museums' didn't lead to a single helpful link. My characters need to know (right now) how they're gonna pull this off!

Does anyone lead a secret life or rob museums in their spare time? Help would be much appreciated (and I swear I won't tell)!

ETA: This is not to say that I haven't done my research myself. I know some things. But I still feel like I would get caught if I ever attempted to rob the Louvre...which means my characters don't stand much of a chance)

jannawrites
04-15-2008, 04:20 AM
Watch Ocean's Eleven! :D

lkp
04-15-2008, 04:26 AM
Watch Return of the Pink Panther.

Madison
04-15-2008, 04:36 AM
Check
Check

Good movies, but I'd rather not steal used ideas. I want to do it my own way...which means knowing the system.

:)

jannawrites
04-15-2008, 04:39 AM
*shrugs* I'm sorry I'm of no help, Madison. My brain just doesn't figure out stuff like that.

Good luck!

:)

Namatu
04-15-2008, 04:46 AM
Use magic!

Shweta
04-15-2008, 04:46 AM
Talk to museum folks and ask if they know any interesting ways that would be plausible but wouldn't actually work?

They obviously wouldn't tell you ways that would work :D

jannawrites
04-15-2008, 04:50 AM
Talk to museum folks and ask if they know any interesting ways that would be plausible but wouldn't actually work?

They obviously wouldn't tell you ways that would work :D

Great idea! Have you tried calling one of your local museums?

Madison
04-15-2008, 04:54 AM
hm... good idea! I'll check it out.

"Hi, I was wondering how to rob your museum..."

Birol
04-15-2008, 05:00 AM
:roll:

DeleyanLee
04-15-2008, 05:16 AM
As point of fact, you can invent the museum, thus invent the security system AND the way to get round it. Have fun with it.

Honestly, museums have too much invested for them to "help" authors do this (crooks can watch movies & read books, after all)--so just use your research and your imagination and make it exciting. That's part of what makes it "fiction". ;)

Carlene
04-15-2008, 05:22 AM
Google Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. It was robbed oh, maybe 15 years ago? It's a big museum in Boston, BUT at the time of the robbery, they didn't have an alarm system, just guards. Well, two guys dressed as cops showed up one night, said they had to check something out and the guards let them in. Of course the cops tied up the guards, took selected piaintings from a list they had and ... disappeared. To date, none of the paintings have been recovered.

This might work if your museum is in a small town, or something. Might be worth your time to read about it. Oh, and if you find the paintings? There's a five million dollar reward!

Carlene
www.themysterystartshere.com (http://www.themysterystartshere.com)

Shweta
04-15-2008, 05:23 AM
Honestly, museums have too much invested for them to "help" authors do this (crooks can watch movies & read books, after all)

Yes, that's part of why I was wondering if it was possible to ask for a way that wouldn't actually work.

Smiling Ted
04-15-2008, 05:26 AM
Well, if you don't want to watch How to Heist a Million, Topkapi, Rafifi, or The Thomas Crowne Affair...

Maybe your best bet would be to research thefts that have already occurred.

Also, not all valuable art is kept in giant, highly guarded institutions like the Louvre and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Many pieces are kept in smaller galleries or libraries, where the security is less intense.

[Note: I see someone mentioned the Isabella Stewart Gardner incident. Perfect example!]

Madison
04-15-2008, 06:21 AM
Thanks!

I like the Gardner incident. It's a small town...not even a town actually. To be completely exact, it's not even a museum, but has museum security because of the value of the loot inside. So Gardner incident-esque might work.

Yeah, the security is much less intense than the Louvre!

I'll read about past heists. Mostly, it's just the security terms - PIR and all that stuff - that are causing me trouble. And how to neatly get past them...

BlackViolet13
04-15-2008, 07:39 AM
I just asked my hubs, who is a police sargeant, about this. After he said you need to watch The Da Vinci Code (thanks, honey :e2hammer:) he said that if you're able to find something similar to what you're looking for (the Boston Museum robbery, for example) everything related to the case is public record. You should be able to get in touch with the City and get public records like the police reports and so on, and find out details about the security system or whatever. Don't know if this will work for you, but I thought I'd throw it out there :D

Elliot Cowan
04-15-2008, 07:53 AM
Why don't you create a scenario where in the robbery plan there is a single solitary obstacle they don't know how to overcome and they overcome it anyway, but the reader doesn't know how until the very, very end.
For example.
They can climb the walls, break in, sneak down the corridor but can't work out how to get past the guard.
At the very end it's revealed that the guard was part of the caper all along.
Or some other nonsense...

WittyandorIronic
04-15-2008, 07:56 AM
I don't know if it being a museum is an absolute must, but I second (or third) the idea that it doesn't have to be a high profile big museum to have good loot.
Weird story: I was invited to a dinner this past holiday season to a private club in DC. After dinner we toured the building and their 'collection'. In a building that was guarded ONLY by some stuffy front desk guys there was an American flag from the civil war, some other fancy stuff, and George Washington's commission papers (it might have been his papers from when he got out of the military... I don't recall exactly). It was framed and hung in the corner of a room somewhere in the back of the second floor. Now, I am sure that they have cameras and stuff, but there really didn't seem to be enough security for all the interesting and, I assume, valuable stuff in the building. It was weird.

Madison
04-15-2008, 08:22 AM
Weird story: I was invited to a dinner this past holiday season to a private club in DC. After dinner we toured the building and their 'collection'. In a building that was guarded ONLY by some stuffy front desk guys there was an American flag from the civil war, some other fancy stuff, and George Washington's commission papers (it might have been his papers from when he got out of the military... I don't recall exactly). It was framed and hung in the corner of a room somewhere in the back of the second floor. Now, I am sure that they have cameras and stuff, but there really didn't seem to be enough security for all the interesting and, I assume, valuable stuff in the building. It was weird.

that'll be my next story :)

I'll set to work tracking down all these leads (thanks everyone!) See, in this story I play detective and robber. Best of both worlds.

hammerklavier
04-15-2008, 05:34 PM
- get a job at the museum, inside jobs are easier.
- steal the item when it is visiting another museum (either at the other museum or in route)
- that painting was stolen by the nazi's from my grandfather, I'll have it back now, thanks (with the appropriate fake evidence and lawyers)

Charlie Horse
04-15-2008, 06:20 PM
I have no idea how to go about doing this. But if you need an accomplice let me know.

cethklein
04-15-2008, 07:00 PM
Watch Highlander: the Raven. Amanda robs numerous museums.

Smiling Ted
04-15-2008, 08:14 PM
- get a job at the museum, inside jobs are easier.
- steal the item when it is visiting another museum (either at the other museum or in route)
- that painting was stolen by the nazi's from my grandfather, I'll have it back now, thanks (with the appropriate fake evidence and lawyers)

Going in with lawyers won't work - a piece in dispute stays with the museum that has it. (Italy has been suing the Getty for years for some of its pieces.)

Security is usually higher, not lower, when a piece is visiting another museum.

Elliot Cowan
04-15-2008, 08:23 PM
Going in with lawyers won't work - a piece in dispute stays with the museum that has it. (Italy has been suing the Getty for years for some of its pieces.)

Security is usually higher, not lower, when a piece is visiting another museum.

Interesting you should mention this as it could prove to be a useful plot device.
Several years ago the English government forked out several million dollars to send the Magna Carta to Australia.
It was heavily promoted, they spent a fortune on advertising and it toured all the major galleries and was easily accessible for anyone who wanted to see it.
But no-one did.
Nobody was interested and the tour was a massive financial failure.
Perhaps you could use that as part of the story.
As the tour of the artifact continues, less and less people show up and security becomes sloppy and lazy.

Bartholomew
04-15-2008, 08:29 PM
The first thing anyone is going to do is scope the building out looking for cameras. Ideally, this will be done by someone NOT involved in the actual breaking and entering. Knowing where the cameras are gives you two options--

(a - pure fantasy - Your character stealths through a predetermined path that puts him out of the way of the cameras.

(b - Researching some tech - your characters somehow manipulate the cameras to malfunction, or show something else entirely. Your characters can move with impunity through the building, wary only of guards and alarm systems.

(c - Brute force - With the camera system disabled, your characters can round the guards up and tie them up. Or kill them.

With either B or C, make sure the cameras are seen as malfunctioning two or three times before your intended day of robbery. This way, the person monitoring the cameras is used to it screwing up, and does not immediately contact the police.

There's a LOT more to do, but this should get you at least started.

waylander
04-15-2008, 08:50 PM
Munch's 'The Scream' was stolen a few years ago from a Norwegian museum and it turned out that the security was far less than you would expect from an institution with such an iconic painting.

Soccer Mom
04-15-2008, 09:04 PM
Don't talk to the museums. Talk to the security companies. They will know a hell of a lot more about how security works than the museum.

http://images.icanhascheezburger.com/completestore/2008/4/15/izreadytorobz128527295877187500.jpg

Madison
04-15-2008, 09:14 PM
The first thing anyone is going to do is scope the building out looking for cameras. Ideally, this will be done by someone NOT involved in the actual breaking and entering. Knowing where the cameras are gives you two options--

(a - pure fantasy - Your character stealths through a predetermined path that puts him out of the way of the cameras.

(b - Researching some tech - your characters somehow manipulate the cameras to malfunction, or show something else entirely. Your characters can move with impunity through the building, wary only of guards and alarm systems.

(c - Brute force - With the camera system disabled, your characters can round the guards up and tie them up. Or kill them.

With either B or C, make sure the cameras are seen as malfunctioning two or three times before your intended day of robbery. This way, the person monitoring the cameras is used to it screwing up, and does not immediately contact the police.

There's a LOT more to do, but this should get you at least started.

my characters are casing the building right now - and investigating the CCTV issue. great minds think alike :)

hammerklavier
04-15-2008, 11:46 PM
Why would they care about cameras? Personally I'd smile and wave at the cameras. The Richard Nixon mask is always a great choice, of course.

Someone mentioned How to Steal a Million, great movie where the premise is (more or less) that they are trying to steal their own statue because it's actually a fake and they'll get in trouble for forgery once that's found out. The way that they pulled it off was largly reproduced in the Wesly Snipes film, the inside man, i.e., they hid out inside. The Snipes film added the idea of mixing the hostages and captors together so no one would know who was who afterwards.

Elliot Cowan
04-15-2008, 11:52 PM
It was Denzel Washington actually (ugh...my pedant levels are very high today)...

Terrific film, Inside Man, for anyone who's not seen it.

Horseshoes
04-16-2008, 12:09 AM
Hey Mad, most of these methods are burglary + theft, not robbery...since you're writing the detective angle, too. Bad guys can call a burglary a robbery, but the detective will know better. In general, only if your bad guys end up using force (or the immedaite threat of force) on someone is there a robbery.

hammerklavier
04-16-2008, 04:28 AM
It was Denzel Washington actually (ugh...my pedant levels are very high today)...

Terrific film, Inside Man, for anyone who's not seen it.

I absolutely don't know what I was thinking. Thanks. I stand corrected. Wesley Snipes???

Madison
04-16-2008, 04:53 AM
Why would they care about cameras? Personally I'd smile and wave at the cameras. The Richard Nixon mask is always a great choice, of course.


well, the guards are watching at the other end...in my book, at least.

Madison
04-16-2008, 04:55 AM
Hey Mad, most of these methods are burglary + theft, not robbery...since you're writing the detective angle, too. Bad guys can call a burglary a robbery, but the detective will know better. In general, only if your bad guys end up using force (or the immedaite threat of force) on someone is there a robbery.

oh. good point. there's no force. my loves (ahem...my characters) are innocent. i'll clarify the difference in the first chapter, promise.

anyways, burgle is a much better word the rob.

burgle!

Tsu Dho Nimh
04-16-2008, 07:58 PM
..

The internet has a wealth of info about museum security, but next to nothing about bypassing it.

Look at the security recommendations and reverse them.

Have them watch the museum and see who comes and goes with minimal challenge, like the delivery guys.

Make up an excuse to cause chaos and do the robbery then.

Smiling Ted
04-20-2008, 08:34 AM
Well, the most important point of "How to Heist a Million" was that, when the technology is unbeatable, you try to corrupt, degrade, or outwit the human element instead.

chevbrock
04-20-2008, 04:40 PM
They stole Munch's "The Scream" from the museum in Oslo during the Olympics there. I saw a show about it and how they tracked down the culprits. It was a fairly modern theft and was just about lax security systems and the thought that this painting would not be of interest to collectors on the black market. I think it was something to do with the painting being so hard to authenticate.

You see, Munch treated the painting pretty badly after he had finished it. It was sitting on a table somewhere, and he blew out a candle and the wax splattered onto the painting. The pattern of the wax is, as you could imagine, virtually impossible to replicate. So, only a few experts can really tell which would be the original painting.

Also, the thing is so fragile that it is really hard to transport. It's finished with chalk, so not only was the gallery freaking out about the fact that Norway's most treasured artwork had been stolen, they were also worried that the theives would mishandle it and if they ever got it back, it would be ruined.

Anyways, if this doesn't help, I hope it was interesting reading! :)

frimble3
04-21-2008, 03:14 AM
Look at the security recommendations and reverse them.

Have them watch the museum and see who comes and goes with minimal challenge, like the delivery guys.

Make up an excuse to cause chaos and do the robbery then.
Is this going to be one of those big extravaganza capers? In which case, I've often thought that maximum chaos could be caused by a kindly anonymous benefactor going to the local Boys&Girls Club and offering a couple of chartered buses worth of free tickets to the museum. Free candy and pop on the bus would be a nice detail. Time this so that the buses of kids arrive shortly after the couple of bus loads of seniors, so that the museum is a constant swirl of activity and slow moving people with walkers.

Mac H.
04-21-2008, 04:37 AM
I'd use the human element.

If paintings are being restored (or inspected for insurance) or whatever on a rota, then anyone who uses the right phrases and APPEARS to be genuine could simply walk off with it.

When the 'Mona Lisa' was stolen, the guards just assumed it was being restored or inspected. They only got worried after they casually checked up on it and found it wasn't.

As an example, up until 5 years ago, one of the maximum security prisons here in Australia relied on a fax machine to decide who to release.

If they got the correct paper-work faxed in on the right fax machine, they would wave anyone out of the gate .. no questions asked.

Honestly. The fax number wasn't even top secret .. it was listed on the normal phone list for the centre. And a forgery wasn't exactly difficult, given the fact that all the paperwork basically looked the same but with different names and MINs (ID numbers) on them ... not to mention that a fax isn't exactly hi-res.

So for about a decade, you could have released any prisoner you wanted to from the prison ... from the comfort of anywhere in the world. All you had to do was to send a fax !

Fortunately nobody used this loophole to escape, and they fixed the security hole. The security hole only came to light when a minor stuff up in paperwork resulted in someone being released a few years early. (It wasn't a problem - they just when to his place and picked him up again)

So, I'd be tempted to organise for some minor painting or object to be loaned to the museum, and then simply get it returned. All the hero would have to do is to swap the bar-codes on the inventory ... and then the museums own staff would pack up the artwork and courier it to you.

Good luck,

Mac

Melisande
04-23-2008, 12:30 AM
In one of the -either books or comic strips, don't remember- about Modesty Blaise that Peter O'Donnell wrote, she and Willie Garvin robbed a museum of some invaluable paintings this way;

The had the paint color of the wall, a mouth spraypainter (long distance sort of thingy). Modesty Blaise covered the painting within the frame with the same color as the wall, after hours. Willie Garvin set the alarm off. During the turbulence they calmly walked over to the wall, cut the painting out( that everyone thought to be stolen) and walked out with it. The fishing rod was used (as far as I can remember) to unhook the painting had the other plan gone wrong. But, again, it was a long time since I read this...

Sorry that I don't remember the name of the book (or the comic-strip) but it might give you a hint....