From flashy getaway cars to million-dollar jewel thefts, heist movies show a glamorous world of high-end robberies. Employing the latest tech and a covert team of experts, these films have audiences rooting for the bad guys. But are their sophisticated schemes possible in real life?
In multiple action flicks, the skilled thief tries to outsmart a moving array of laser beams, designed to alert authorities if even a hint of their light catches the crafty burglar. In movies like Oceans 12, Charlie’s Angels and Entrapment, the perpetrator is forced to move around the room in a series of twists and turns to avoid the dangerous rays. While it’s a suspenseful thrill on film, in actuality, motion sensors cover an entire surface area. Using a number of moving lasers would not only be more complex, it would be much less effective. Additionally, if a museum or gallery were to use this type of technology, the beams would be invisible, making it impossible to dance around them for even the most flexible thief.
Though prisons are filled with career criminals, they aren’t the bored millionaires portrayed in countless movies like The Thomas Crown Affair. Although it’s much less exciting, most large-scale commercial thefts from museums or high-value businesses are conducted by someone on the inside like an employee. It’s significantly easier for a worker with access and knowledge to quietly snatch a treasure, rather than an outsider to carefully concoct a scheme.
Sneaky groups on screen often have access to tiny devices that serve to trick or override other machines. Impossible, right? Well, a trio of friends entered a London casino and proceeded to dominate the roulette table. The crew walked away with over $1 million dollars, much to the dismay of the management. After carefully reviewing the security tapes, the lucky friends were found to have used a tool that measured the speed of the ball in order to determine where it would land and bet accordingly. Though their trick was uncovered, the scam wasn’t technically illegal – leaving the now-wealthy winners free to enjoy their cash.
This is one of the oldest tricks in the book. In countless fiction, a perpetrator will simply don a worker’s uniform or pose as a delivery person in order to gain access to a secure area. In real life, most people are friendly with coworkers and an outsider would stick out. Aside from that, anyone without proper credentials is highly unlikely to be trusted with entering a restricted room.
Though on-screen heroes typically have a successful end, that’s not the case in reality for most. Those who steal valuable or rare items and get away with it – at least temporarily – are left in a unique conundrum. The goods are so expensive and unique that they are unable to find a buyer. Plus, detectives usually warn local pawn shops of stolen merchandise, making it even harder for crooks to offload the loot.