March 21, 2012

FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, March 2012: Noah Charney, Paul Denton, and John Kieberg on Art Theft

"Protecting Cultural Heritage from Art Theft" is an article by Noah Charney, Paul Denton and John Kleberg recently released in the March 2012 issue of the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin.
When someone thinks of art crime, a Hollywood image is conjured, one of black-clad cat burglars and thieves in top hats and white gloves. But, the truth behind art crime, one misunderstood by the general public and professionals alike, is far more sinister and intriguing. Art crime has its share of cinematic thefts and larger-than-life characters, but it also is the realm of international organized crime syndicates, the involvement of which results in art crime funding all manner of other serious offenses, including those pertaining to the drug trade and terrorism. Art crime has shifted from a relatively innocuous, ideological crime into a major international plague. 
Over the last 50 years, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has ranked art crime behind only drugs and arms in terms of highest-grossing criminal trades.1 There are hundreds of thousands of art crimes reported per year, but, despite this fact, the general public only hears about the handful of big-name museum heists that make international headlines. In Italy alone there are 20,000 to 30,000 thefts reported annually, and many more go unreported.2 In fact, even though reported art crime ranks third in the list of criminal trades, many more such incidents go unreported worldwide, rather than coming to the attention of authorities, making its true scale much broader and more difficult to estimate.
You may read the remainder of the article online here which includes a discussion of art police squads around the world (Scotland Yard Art and Antiquities Unit, Italy's Carabinieri Division for the Protection of Cultural Heritage, and the Dutch Art Crime Team).

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