Showing posts with label Dutch Police. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Dutch Police. Show all posts

February 2, 2020

Dick Drent returns to Amelia to teach "risk management and crime prevention in museum security” at ARCA's 2020 Postgraduate Program in Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection

By Edgar Tijhuis

This year, the ARCA Postgraduate Program in Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection will be held from May 28 through August 12, 2020 in the beautiful heart of Umbria in Amelia, Italy. In the months leading up to the start of the program, this year’s lecturers will be interviewed. This week I speak Dick Drent, the Van Gogh Museum's former security director and on of the worlds leading experts on museum security.

Dick Drent
Though Dick and I both located in Amsterdam, I have to this interview via Skype as Dick is constantly flying around the world to assist museums from the US to the Far East and in between. When I talk with him to discuss his return to Amelia in 2020, Dick is heading for Dubai and Abu Dhabi as the first two emirates to talk about bringing proactive security to the UAE. Soon to follow by the other emirates.

Can you tell us something about your background and work?

My background is based on law enforcement with the Dutch police, where I worked for 25 years, mainly involving international investigations hinging on organised crime. In that capacity I worked for 15 years in the Undercover and Sensitive Operations Unit on counter-terrorism projects and on setting up, running and managing (inter)national infiltration projects. I also worked as the Liaison Officer for the Dutch Police to the UN War Crimes Tribunal at the Hague, a tribunal set up in 1992 for the prosecution of persons responsible for serious violations of international humanitarian law set up following the war in what is the former Yugoslavia.

In 2005 I was approached by the Van Gogh Museum to serve as their Director of Security, responsible for dealing with their threat and risk issues as it relates to the museum’s complex physical security as well as it's the museum’s approach to organizational, construction and electronic risk management. Leading up to my hire, these were not sufficient for a museum of this calibre and had resulted in the 2002 burglary of the museum in which two Van Gogh paintings were stolen. So, I was mandated to change and overhaul the museum’s overall security which I did, developing and implementing a new proactive security strategy which effectively assessed risk and minimized the potential of future breaches. Next to that I was pinpointed as chief investigator with the goal of getting the museum's two stolen Van Gogh paintings back. In 2016 after many years of tracing and tracking tips, gathering information, connecting with informants and conducting investigations all over Europe we were ultimately successful. Fourteen years after the robbery, and in close cooperation with Italy’s Guardia Di Finanza of Naples, we were able to recover the paintings at a house connected to one of the bosses of the Camorra organized crime clans in Naples. There, the paintings were seized by law enforcement authorities and when authenticated, were returned to the Van Gogh Museum where they have been restored and are now once again a part of the museum’s collection.

Recovery of the Van Gogh's
In 2014 I left the Van Gogh Museum to further develop my own business enterprise where I continue to be successful in an advisory and consultancy capacity, a segment of which is specialized on providing security and risk training as it relates to protecting cultural heritage. I have also expanded my company Omnirisk through a merger with the International Preventive Security Unit (IPSU) where knowledge and expertise is combined. We will operate under the name International Security Expert Group. (ISEG). ISEG works with experts from law enforcement and special forces from the military and will cover the full range of training and courses in security and safety for any situation in the world. Next to this I’m still busy with assisting museums and cultural projects all over the world to improve their security. At the moment I’m in touch with Mark Collins, a law enforcement officer from Canada and an ARCA alumnus, to set up training programs on proactive security in Canada.

What do you feel is the most relevant part of your course?

Dick Drent on a field trip during the
2019 program
As it relates to my course with ARCA, aside from creating security awareness in the broadest sense of the word, especially for those participants who have no security experience in their backgrounds, the most relevant part of my course involves a change of mindset. This is done by literally letting them climb into the skin of the criminal or terrorist, where they are asked to assume an adversarial role or point of view in order to understand how easy it is to commit an art-related crime. By considering, how they themselves would set about attacking a museum or an archaeological site or infiltrating a private institution with the intent and goal of stealing or destroying something, they are better able to see and understand the site's security vulnerabilities, by simulating a real-world attack to evaluate the effectiveness of a site’s security defenses and policies.

What do you hope participants will get out of your course? 

I want them to understand that the protection of cultural heritage doesn’t begin with chasing stolen, falsified, counterfeited, looted, plundered or destroyed art or heritage. I want them to learn that it starts with thinking about threats and actors, and risk in advance of an incident and exploring how we can prevent incidents before they happen. By changing from a reactive method of security as we know it, ergo, reacting to incidents after they occur, where, per definition, you are already too late to have prevented it), to a proactive strategy is what is needed for comprehensive security strategies. Pro-activity involves identifying the hazardous conditions that can give rise to all manner of risk, which we address in a variety of methods, including predictive profiling, red teaming, utilizing security intelligence and other proactive approaches which lead to the actual protection of cultural heritage.

A second thing I know for sure the participants come away with from my course is that when finished they will have a strong understanding of how security should, or more correctly, has to be an intrinsic part of any organisation. It’s not unusual for those who study under me, to say afterwards that they will never be able to walk into museum again without looking for the security issues at hand and in their head making a survey how easy it would be too…… For them, the days of solely enjoying a museum or art will be over. Forever.

In anticipation of your courses, what book, article, or movie would you recommend to participants? 

Next to reading everything that is mentioned on the advanced reading lists we provide to participants, I would highly recommend reading the book: Managing the Unexpected (2007) by Karl E. Weick and Kathleen M. Sutcliffe. This book discusses the ideas behind the High Reliability Organization (HRO) and it's principles. In my opinion every organization that is involved in the protection of cultural heritage, should be managed as an HRO. Read it and you will find out why.

Is there anything you can recommend about the program or about it being in Amelia or Umbria? 

Coffee break during the conference
An added value to your investment in following this program in Amelia is the opportunity to develop one’s network with other participants and with all the professors and lectures who come to Umbria because of ARCA and the ARCA conference. This sometimes isn’t obvious in the beginning, but I am still in contact with a lot of the participants and presenters from the previous year’s courses and conferences and have also been able to connect them to other people in my network long after the summer is over. So, for a future career, even it is not clear yet what or how that career will look, this program offers opportunities too good not to make use of! Tip: Print business cards to give to the people you contact and ask for theirs. Make them notice you, by your questions and drive to learn

Regarding Amelia, Umbria and of course Italy as a whole, there are not enough words even to begin to explain why someone should travel around in this big playground where every stone represents a part of history. Not to mention the beautiful food, wines and various dishes they serve in all the different regions and the friendship you can experience if you are really interested in the people and the country. It’s worth soaking up and living it!

What is your experience with the yearly ARCA conference in June?

Throughout the years that the Amelia Conference has taken place, I have watched it become more and more focused and specialized. The number of attendees has also grown from 40-50 at its start to well over 150 attendees, even without using publishing or marketing tools. That is what a conference should be about, interesting topics, good speakers, interesting discussions and the opportunity to network and get to know people. Due to my work, I am not always able to attend every year and feel this as a missed opportunity to grow and to extend my knowledge and network. For the participants it is very important to be there and to connect with the people that could be interesting for their line of work or career or just because it is good to meet interesting people. This applies also the other way around. I’m looking forward to meeting all of the participants during this coming 2020 program!


For a detailed prospectus and application materials or for general questions about this postgraduate program please contact us at 

Edgar Tijhuis is Academic Director at ARCA and visiting scholar at the Institute of Criminology in Ljubljana. He is responsible for the postgraduate certificate program in the study of art crime and cultural heritage protection. Since 2009, Edgar Tijhuis has taught criminology modules within the ARCA program.

August 16, 2013

Art Investigator Arthur Brand assists in the return of artworks stolen in March from the Museum Van Bommel van Dam in Venlo

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog

Istanbul - Last night I received an email from art investigator Arthur Brand that he had just solved a museum robbery in The Netherlands. Mr. Brand's news was that three of the four artworks stolen on March 22 from the Museum Van Bommel van Dam in Venlo were delivered to Amsterdam police.

Arthur Brand wrote in an email to the ARCA blog: “We were smoking a cigarette outside the police-headquarters before going in. The guy knew that he would be arrested and discovered that he had no money left. He asked me for some to be able to buy some extra food while being detained. I gave him all I had with me, 35 euros. We embraced each other and walked in with a cheap plastic bag containing the stolen works of art.”

According to the police press release, due to an investigation by the Dutch police (Politie) and in cooperation with employees of an auction house, the police have recovered artwork by Jan van Schoonhoven:
This is one of four works stolen with an estimated value of more than 1 million euros. Last Wednesday a bag containing two of the other three remaining stolen artworks was delivered to the police headquarters in Amsterdam. The defendant, against whom an investigation was related to the work of art offered at auction, was immediately arrested and the bag with the two works confiscated. The suspect was surrounded and taken into police custody. The two works of art in the bag are probably also from the hand of Jan van Schoonhoven and almost certainly  from the theft in Venlo. The authenticity of these reliefs is yet to be determined. Detectives from the serious crime department worked under the supervision of the Amsterdam prosecutor. The Amsterdam detectives researched the theft of the paintings and the police unit in Limburg investigated the burglary and theft. The suspect will be brought before the magistrate on Friday, August 16.
Here in this Dutch newspaper is the story (loosely translated by Google):
Art investigator Arthur Brand reported on Twitter that he had returned two stolen artworks to the Amsterdam police. Dagblad de Limburger reported that the man who was arrested was in the presence of Arthur Brand. The police do not want to discuss the role of Brand who deals in tracking stolen and forged art. Amsterdam Police had been tracking the paintings before they were returned. The authenticity of the works has yet to be determined, but they are probably the three stolen works by the Dutch artists Jan Schoonhoven. The fourth work stolen from the Collection of Tomas Manders, is still missing. Together the works  have a total insured value of 1.1 million euros.

March 5, 2013

Dutch Police Arrest 19-year-old Romanian woman in connection with the Rotterdam Kunsthal Art Heist

Matisse painting stolen from Kunsthal Rotterdam
Monday March 4 Dutch police arrested a 19-year-old Romanian woman, the girlfriend of one of the suspected thieves responsible for robbing the Rotterdam's Kunsthal on October 16. 

In January, Romanian police arrested three men in Bucharest suspected of stealing seven paintings attributed to brand name artists such as Picasso, Matisse, Lucian Freud, and Paul Gauguin.

According to Reuter's Thomas Escritt reporting from Amsterdam yesterday, Dutch police's review of the art gallery's surveillance tapes of led authorities to two Romanian men, age 25 and 28, based upon 'their behavior and the frequency of their visits'. Escritt wrote:
Police believe the unnamed woman, the girlfriend of the 28-year-old, was living in the flat where the canvases were stored until they had been removed from their frames and transported to Romania.

October 20, 2012

Police Release Surveillance Video for Kunsthal Art Theft

The Rotterdam-Rijnmond police in The Netherlands posted this surveillance feed of the break in at the Kunsthal on October 16 at around 3:15 am.

The police are asking any Kunsthal visitors who have footage of their visit to the exhibition to please come forward so that investigators can look for any similarities between the thieves pictured in this footage and possible visitors to the Kunsthal in the days leading up to the event.

The police also ask viewers of this footage to take a close look at the bags the thieves are carrying in this footage and to notify authorities if they have seen anyone carrying anything similar.

If you have, or if you have footage of your visit, please contact the Dutch police by calling  011 + 31 0800-6070 or contact the Criminal Intelligence Unit at 011 + 31 079-3458999.

October 19, 2012

Kunsthal Rotterdam Art Heist: "Progress in Kunsthal art theft investigation" announced by Rotterdam-Rijnmond Police

Rotterdam-Rijnmond Police in The Netherlands released a press release on their website regarding progress in the investigation of the October 16 burglary at the Kunsthal (Dutch for art gallery) Rotterdam in English, reflecting the international attentional received by the theft of seven stolen paintings by artists such as Picasso, Matisse, and Monet.

Here's a link to the press release titled "Progress in Kunsthal art theft investigation" provided by the Dutch police.  We've copied and pasted the text here for your convenience (the likely date is October 17th):
Investigation following the art theft at the Kunsthal gallery in Rotterdam has shown that the suspects entered through a door at the back of the building. They seized and made off with the paintings in a very short space of time. The collection and examination of camera footage is now in full swing, as is the rest of the criminal investigation. So far no images have been found which are suitable for publication.
Burglars stole seven art works from the Kunsthal at Westzeedijk in the course of the night between Monday and Tuesday. They forced their way into the building at about quarter past three in the morning and were outside again very soon after.
The alarm went off at the security company, whereupon police and security personnel launched an investigation. There were no visible signs of forced entry outside the premises. Nor was anyone present inside the building.
Security personnel only discovered the paintings were gone after they went inside the building.
Forensic detectives made a thorough investigation, carefully securing any clues and evidence both inside the Kunsthal and in the immediate vicinity. They were able to establish how the perpetrators gained access to the building without leaving any sign of forced entry.
The Kunsthal contacted the owner of the works in question. On Tuesday morning the Kunsthal submitted an official report to the police as soon as it was ascertained for certain which paintings were involved. The publication of images attracted world-wide attention to the robbery and the stolen paintings. An international alert was also issued for the pictures.
Apart from images from inside the Kunsthal itself, camera images of the immediate vicinity were also secured. All images are being studied carefully by the detectives. So far no camera images suitable for publication have been found.
The Dutch television programme 'Opsporing Verzocht' also drew attention to the case on Tuesday evening. Images of the stolen paintings were shown during the programme.
Thanks to all the media attention, dozens of tips were received and are being investigated for their usability.
The team spoke to various witnesses. All information is still welcome. The investigators are making a particular appeal to the visitors to the Kunsthal. Did you visit the Kunsthal last week and did you see or hear anything unusual while you were there? Did you take any photos or video pictures? If so you should contact the police on 0900-8844. If you would prefer to speak to the Criminal Information Unit call 079-3458999. We would also like to speak to you if you saw any suspicious vehicles or persons in the vicinity of the Kunsthal in the period immediately leading up to the art theft.

July 16, 2011

Ludo Block on "European Police Cooperation on Art Crime"

by Mark Durney, founder of Art Theft Central

Ludo Block, a former Dutch police officer and current investigator at Grant Thornton, recently submitted his doctoral dissertation on the topic of police cooperation in the European Union. While his dissertation focuses on EU policy-making in relation to police cooperation, Mr. Block focused his panel lecture at ARCA’s third annual International Art Crime Conference on transnational police cooperation in crimes against art.

Unfortunately, art crime is often overlooked by law enforcement due to the lack of political priority. Whereas most members of the European Union do not maintain law enforcement units to investigate art crimes, a few countries such as France, Spain, Greece, and most especially Italy, maintain special units to curb the problem. Italy has organized its data management capabilities, its art crime experts, and investigative capacity under the Comando Carabinieri per la Tutela del Patrimonio Culturale with over 300 staff. Furthermore, it has trained officers at the local level in order to enable them to effectively investigate crimes against art. Also, the Carabinieri play a major role in the annual art crime courses offered to senior law enforcement by CEPOL, the European Police College.  Some other EU Member States maintain centralized units but these are usually staffed with only a handful of experts.  In mother Member States, data management on art crimes is insufficiently organized and as a result, reliable statistics on the scope of art crime are hardly available.

Throughout his research, which featured interviews as well as extensive research, Mr. Block found that the countries that placed art crime high on their policing agendas largely drove the European Union’s cultural heritage protection policy. In spite of various attempts since 1993, only recently in 2008 the  European Union passed new policy aimed at increasing police cooperation; however, as yet it did little to enhance the cooperation between the member countries. Mr. Block stated that in practice law enforcement efforts in a majority of the member countries rely on the personal dedication of a handful of specialized art crime investigators. In cases that involve transnational crimes, most investigators take advantage of their informal relationships with other investigators in order to pursue crimes that extend beyond their borders.

The European Union is in the process of developing an art crime database for its member countries.  In 2008, Europol, the European Union’s criminal intelligence agency, declined to participate in the project but Interpol, which has a long history of supporting the fight against art crime, quickly agreed to  convert their database to the EU member states' needs. According to Mr. Block, combatting art crime starts with proper data management on the local level where art crimes are usually first registered.

February 20, 2011

Art Recovered: A Found Painting Identified by the Art Lost Register

Jacob van Ruisdael's Two Men with Dogs on a Forest Path
(Photo provided by the Art Loss Register)

By Catherine Schofield Sezgin, Editor

In 2009, Dutch police found a painting at the railroad station at Amsterdam’s Schipol Airport. Martin Finkelnberg, head of the Arts and Antiques Crime Unit of IPOL, a department of the National Police Agency (KLPD), and Christopher A. Marinello, General Counsel with the Art Loss Register, discussed with ARCA how the police and the world's largest private database of lost and stolen art worked together to return Jacon van Ruisdael's painting, Two Men with Dogs on a Forest Path, to the owner who had misplaced it before boarding a train in Amsterdam.

The Dutch Police organization consists of 26 police forces, of which 25 operate on a regional level. The 26th force, the Netherlands Police Agency (KPLD, Korps Landelijke Politiediensten) carries out nationwide taskes like policing or patrolling water, road, air and rail traffic; provides security for the Royal family, politicians and diplomats; and combats international organized crime with the National Investigation Squad. The KPLD also provides criminal intelligence, specialised investigation expertise and crime analysis on a national level, and is responsible for dealing with international requests for mutual assitance.

The 17th century Baroque artist Jacob van Ruisdael (ca. 1628-1682) is often considered the greatest Dutch landscape painter. His works are found all over the world from the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, to the Louvre in Paris, and to regional museums in the United States. Obsessed with trees, he imbued them with forceful personalities, according to the online entry on the artist in the Encyclopaedia Brittanica.

The police found the painting in the railway station, Mr. Finkelnberg explained. “Since the painting was neither registered in our national database nor in the Interpol database, I called the ALR and they almost instantly returned my call, telling me it was in their database. This is how we also found out the identity of the owner.”

I asked Mr. Finkelnberg if he thought that the painting in a railway station had anything to do with a ransom. “No, nothing of the kind,” he wrote in an email.

“Do you think there was another story?” I persisted. “Why would the owner claim he ‘forgot to take it with him on a train’?”

“This is what he stated to the police,” Mr. Finkelnberg responded. “What I think is not relevant. But it is rather curious isn’t it?”

Recently I had published a post on the blog about Christopher A. Marinello’s essay in The Journal of Art Crime “On Fakes”, so I emailed Mr. Marinello at The Art Loss Register to ask him a few questions about the case.
ARCA Blog: Mr. Marinello, the National Dutch Police credits The Art Loss Register with recovering the painting. Some people may think that the police and the ALR work separately. How did the ALR and the police approach this case?

Mr. Marinello: While separate from law enforcement, the ALR enjoys a unique working relationship with local and international police organizations in an effort to solve and prevent art crimes. We are a free service to law enforcement officials who know that they can contact us for the most accurate and reliable information and documentation surrounding a theft while maintaining the highest level of confidentiality.

In this case, Martin contacted us to determine if the van Ruisdael was ever listed as stolen. We confirmed that the work was stolen property and provided the victim and case details along with the insurance documentation. The ALR never deletes its records and can access police reports and insurance information that may have been purged from police archives.

ARCA blog: When I hear that the painting was recovered in a public place, such as a railroad station, I wonder if a ransom was paid. Is this typically true and was this the case here?

Mr. Marinello: The ALR does not pay ransoms. It is strict ALR policy and always has been. On occasion, a theft victim or their insurance company will offer a reward for information leading to the recovery of a valuable item. In that case, we will effectuate payment of a reward but never to the criminal or anyone connected with the theft or where contrary to the laws of the local jurisdiction.

ARCA blog: When the police are involved, what do you think the ALR can do that the police cannot?

Mr. Marinello: I don’t want to give away anything that will reduce our effectiveness, but generally speaking, the ALR can operate more efficiently than law enforcement in areas of cross border communications, strategy development/implementation and cases where instant action is necessary. As a private organisation, we do not have the bureaucratic restrictions that one would associate with a governmental entity. But let’s get one thing perfectly clear, the ALR is serious about operating ethically and within the confines of local and national law.

Martin Finkelnberg is one of the giants among international law enforcement in fighting art crime. Without officers like Martin Finkelnberg (KLPD), Jim Wynne (FBI), Michelle Roycroft and Ian Lawson (London Met. Police/Scotland Yard), Massimiliano Cretara and Fabrizio Rossi (Carabinieri), and Axel Poels (Belgian Federal Police), the art world would be a much more dangerous place.