INTERNATIONAL FOUNDATION FORCULTURAL PROPERTY PROTECTION
Reposted from Europol
Two weeks ago, at 04:00 in the morning, more than 250 police officers searched simultaneously 40 houses in the Italian regions of Sicily, Calabria, Piedmont, Apulia as well as in Ehningen (Germany), London (UK) and Barcelona (Spain).
On the basis of European arrest warrants, 23 suspects were detained. Over 25 000 archaeological items were seized as part of this investigation, worth a total of EUR 40 million.
The investigation, initiated 4 years ago by the unit specialized in the trafficking of cultural goods of the Italian Carabinieri and supported by its counterparts at the Spanish Guardia Civil, the British Metropolitan Police and the German LKA of Baden-Württemberg, revealed that the organised crime group behind the illegal excavation and trafficking of cultural goods was very well organised, operating from several EU Member States.
In the district of Caltanisetta, in the center of Sicily, which is rich in archaeological sites from the Greek and Roman epochs, local members of the organised crime group illegally excavated artifacts which were then brought out of Italy, equipped with false provenances and sold via German auction houses. Key facilitators were also acting from Barcelona and London, coordinating the supply chain and providing technical support.
Prior to the action day, some 3 000 archaeological goods and 1 200 fake archaeological items were already seized by the Italian Carabinieri, worth at least EUR 40 million. Additionally, some 1 500 tools such as metal detectors used by the illegal diggers were confiscated.
The case, which is considered as one of the biggest in this crime area in Italian history; was actively supported by Europol which hosted and financed operational meetings, as well as the action day itself, thereby facilitating international information exchange. Europol also deployed a team of experts on the spot in Sicily on the action day to facilitate the immediate cross-checking of data.
This investigation once more shows that international cooperation is key to the success of such investigations in the field of trafficking of cultural goods, in which artifacts are moved through several EU countries and levels before they are brought to the legal market. Europol, with its unique analytical capacity, once again proved its key role as criminal information hub and facilitator of international Law Enforcement cooperation. Eurojust’s assistance has been crucial to coordinate the execution of the arrests and searches in the four Member States on the action day.
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Reposted from JTA
A bomb threat was called into the National Museum of American Jewish Military History in Washington, D.C., on Thursday.
The museum has been cleared by police and operations have returned to normal after it received the threatening call at around 12:30 p.m.
During the call, a male voice with a foreign accent said that there would be a bomb in the building on Thursday and Friday.
“It was shocking. I was stuck for a minute,” said Vincent Edwards, the museum’s communications center assistant.
Police searched the building, but no bomb was found. Operations returned to normal around 3 p.m.
Doron Horowitz, senior national security adviser at the Secure Community Network, said his organization was not aware of any other Jewish sites targeted on Thursday. SCN is an affiliate of the Jewish Federations of North America and advises Jewish groups and institutions on security.
The museum’s program and public relations coordinator, Anna Selman, told JTA that the situation was “stressful.”
“A lot of people in this building are military, so it’s something some of us have dealt with, but it’s definitely not normal,” Selman said.
The museum, founded in 1958, aims to preserve “the contributions of Jewish Americans to the peace and freedom of the United States … [and to educate] the public concerning the courage, heroism and sacrifices made by Jewish Americans who served in the armed forces.”
In the beginning of 2017, Jewish institutions in North America were targeted with hundreds of bomb threats, although the military history museum was not one of the targeted sites. Two men were convicted of making those threats.
In December 2017, a former journalist from St. Louis was sentenced to five years in prison for charges connected to eight of the threats as part of a revenge plot against a former girlfriend. In June, a 19-year old American-Israeli was convicted of making hundreds of the threats; his parents and lawyer have said he has a low IQ and a brain tumor.
Reposted from The Bulletin
Librarians researching the history of the Deschutes Public Library recently discovered a forgotten, unsolved crime — the theft of a collection of rare artifacts stolen from the library’s basement 50 years ago.
The lost collection of weapons, books and mementos belonged to early Bend resident James Anthony Mitchell, a Civil War veteran and pastor in the Presbyterian church.
Nate Pedersen and Erin Weaver were compiling historic newspaper articles about the library for exhibits when they came across a Jan. 29, 1969, article describing the brazen burglary into the locked basement. Other than the basement door, there was only one way in.
“Leading into this room from the outside was a small window, hardly big enough for a slim youngster,” the article read. “There is a possibility some small person was lowered into the room.”
The Mitchell collection included guns, such as an 1866 Winchester, muzzle loaders from the frontier days and several antique bayonets and swords. The collection contained old books, some dating to 1620. The items in the collection were meant to be part of the city’s first museum.
The librarians’ discovery raised questions about the life of Mitchell, who is unfamiliar to local historians.
“I didn’t know of him at all,” said Pedersen, a member of the Deschutes Historical Society.
But Pedersen and Weaver learned a lot about Mitchell by reading the old newspaper clippings from The Bulletin.
Mitchell grew up in Illinois and enlisted at 17 to fight in the Civil War. He fought in Sherman’s March to the Sea, a famous battle in Georgia in 1864. Mitchell later became a missionary and traveled across Europe for more than a year. During his travels, Mitchell collected souvenirs from places all over the globe.
A Bulletin article from July 19, 1923, described Mitchell’s collection as “a wealth in war implements of every civilized nation.” His collection contained swords, firearms, maps, tapestries, Native American relics, stones, hides, flags and books.
The collection included Civil War relics, such as a letter a soldier wrote to his son in April 1863, a poster celebrating the fall of Vicksburg, Mississippi, and a National Union Party ticket for the 1864 presidential election when Abraham Lincoln was a candidate.
Mitchell moved from Los Angeles to Bend in 1905. He reportedly divorced his wife and left her and their five children in California.
As a worldly person, Mitchell brought rich culture to the Central Oregon frontier town. He put on and starred in Shakespearean plays, including “The Merchant of Venice” and “Macbeth.”
He hosted lectures, similar to modern day TED talks or History Pub talks at Bend’s McMenamins Old St. Francis School. He gave lectures on the catacombs in Italy and one talk in 1910 titled, “What is the trouble with Portugal?”
Having such a cultured person in the isolated High Desert community must have been a treat for the local residents, Pedersen said. Many people at that time could not afford to travel the world by train and transatlantic ships, he said.
“It was probably really attractive to Bend residents to hear about places in the world they would never get a chance to visit,” Pedersen said.
Mitchell, who served as the Presbyterian Church pastor in Bend without pay, died of heart failure at 64 in 1911. He was found kneeling at his bedside. He appeared to be praying. Newspaper headlines at the time read, “Pastor Dies in Prayer,” and “Dies on Knees.”
The city purchased Mitchell’s collection from his estate for $187 in 1912. The collection changed hands over the years from the Ladies Library Club to the American Legion, and pieces were lost along the way. In 1922, the city formally gave the collection to the library, where many pieces sat in storage in the basement until the burglary in 1969.
No pieces of the collection remain today.
“It’s totally gone,” Pedersen said. “The burglary was the last straw.”
If any longtime Bend residents remember the burglary or know where the stolen items are being kept, the Deschutes Historical Museum wants to hear from them, Pedersen said.
“It would be really interesting if anyone had anything,” Pedersen said. “ My guess is whoever stole it, sold it underground to a collector, and it disappeared into someone’s private collection.”
A part of the collection was Mitchell’s scrapbooks that would have contained souvenirs and pictures of his travels as a missionary and his life in Bend. Such photos would be treasured by local historians, more than the weapons and books, Pedersen said.
“From the historical perspective,” Pedersen said, “that’s a goldmine.”
But despite everything the two librarians learned about Mitchell, one big question remained: What did Mitchell look like? So far, no one has found a photograph.
Reposted from Observer.com
Caravaggio’s Nativity, stolen from the church of San Lorenzo in Palermo in 1969 and still missing, may be one step closer to recovery. Taken by members of Cosa Nostra, the Sicilian mafia, during a time when Italy was cracking down on organized crime, its theft prompted the establishment of the world’s first dedicated art police unit, the Italian Carabinieri Division for the Protection of Cultural Heritage. But despite that effort, the painting has not been seen since.
Investigators rarely consider that a famous work of art has been stolen for display at some super villain’s lair. That far-fetched idea is largely a myth promoted in film and fiction (including one of my own books, I’m afraid, The Art Thief). The motive behind most cases of high-profile stolen art is more complicated, but also, in many ways, more interesting.
Simply selling ill-gotten art is supremely difficult. Much stolen art is believed to enter a closed black market, used as barter or collateral in deals with other organized crime groups for other illicit goods. But there are some prominent exceptions to this rule, proving that sometimes life is really a lot like fiction. New evidence suggests the fate of this Caravaggio could be one such movie-esque example.
The most noted recovery attempt of the Caravaggio to date took place in 1979 when journalist Peter Watson went undercover for the Carabinieri, pretending to be a shifty art collector happy to deal in stolen art (he wrote of this adventure in The Caravaggio Conspiracy). When police are able to discover who was behind a theft it’s often through a paid network of criminal informants. The Carabinieri had learned that Cosa Nostra members were boasting possession of the painting, and Watson was recruited to lure them into offering it to him. He concluded that Cosa Nostra was indeed very likely in possession of the Caravaggio, but he was not offered it for sale—instead he was offered a Bronzino and an Andrea del Sarto, which were recovered through this sting operation.
In 1996, a mafia penitento (an informant) claimed that he had stolen the Caravaggio on the request of a high-ranking boss. In 2009, another penitento asked about the Caravaggio and said that he’d heard, back in 1999, that the painting had been ruined during an earthquake while in storage in Sicily, and had subsequently been eaten by rats and pigs rooting through the rubble. The work still hovers at the top of the FBI’s Most Wanted Stolen Works of Art list, but it has since been labelled “missing, presumed destroyed.”
But new hope recently dawned. Yet another penitento has claimed to the Carabinieri that the Caravaggio remained intact and was acquired by mafia boss Gaetano Badalamenti, who was in touch with an art dealer in Switzerland prior to his arrest in 1984. The head of Italy’s anti-mafia unit announced last week that there was “enough evidence to launch a new investigation,” with a focus on Switzerland. So it is entirely possible that the painting has survived its kidnap by Cosa Nostra and can be found again.
As I noted in Art Crime: Terrorists, Tomb Raiders, Forgers and Thieves, art police say that most art crime since the 1960s has involved organized crime at some point in the life of the crime (either through theft, smuggling, laundering or fencing). This definition includes both smaller groups working together in criminal enterprises for collective, long-term goals (as opposed to quick cash crimes) and large criminal syndicates, or “mafias.”
Major syndicates have been involved in innumerable high-profile art crimes. The Corsican mafia was responsible for a string of thefts along the French Riviera in the 1960s and ’70s; the Balkan mafia has certainly played role in art thefts in Zurich, such as the 2008 heist from the Buehrle Collection; there’s reason to believe the Russian mafia was involved in several thefts of Edvard Munch paintings; and of course there’s Cosa Nostra and our missing Carravagio. But law enforcement the world over is pretty bad at prosecuting art crime. As I showed in The Museum of Lost Art, as little as 1.5 percent of art theft cases end with the recovery of the object and successful prosecution of the criminals. Police learn who is, or which groups are, behind art heists through criminal informants, but such information must be taken with a grain of salt. For example, how do they know which mafia penitento is telling the truth about the Caravaggio Nativity theft? All they do know is that the group was somehow involved.
Peter Watson’s experience trying to recover the Nativity shows how murky the task of assigning motive can be when it comes to an art heist. After all, art syndicates are almost always involved in such instances of high-profile theft, yet their viable options for what to do with the work are slim. Watson wasn’t offered the Carravagio but he was offered other work they had acquired, suggesting that resale is at least the reason some works of art have been snatched. The Carabinieri helped build an identity and history for Peter Watson that suggested that he was a legitimate art dealer who was not afraid to buy questionable pieces. Known art dealers and art world personalities contributed to this subterfuge, providing documents, letters, contracts, etc. which would give the impression that Watson’s character had a long career as a dealer.
They must have done the job well. The representatives of Cosa Nostra failed to detect his undercover status. And criminals are clearly under the impression that there’s a market out there for stolen art. But did they get this impression from experience or assumption? Connecting with such individuals can be difficult, even for groups with an elaborate international network at their disposal. Watson’s experience speaks to this difficulty, too, because if said criminal collectors were easy to find, the stolen art would have already been sold, or Watson would have been asked to bid against other potential buyers in the closed black market of stolen art. Criminals seem to believe that they can find Dr. No or Thomas Crown criminal art collector types as seen in films. Some certainly must exist, otherwise the Cosa Nostra wouldn’t have fallen for Watson’s disguise, but there have been precious few such figures in confirmed historical case studies.
So in general, it’s understood that the major reason the mafia has been involved in art theft is to conduct closed deals among a circle of criminal groups. As in the case of a 1986 heist carried out by Martin Cahill (head of an Irish organized crime group) of 18 artworks from Russborough House, stolen art is used as collateral on loans and in a barter system for other illicit goods. As I outlined in Art Crime: Terrorists, Tomb Raiders, Forgers and Thieves, a Vermeer taken by Cahill was smuggled to Antwerp where it was used as collateral on a loan, the cash from which bought wholesale drugs to sell on the street. This became clear when several criminals involved were arrested. A Gabriel Metsu painting also taken then was recovered in Turkey being swapped for a shipment of heroin. Thus, art stolen from extant collections can provide a variety of benefits for major organized crime groups.
But then there are the surprises that add fuel to the misconception that most stolen artworks end up at the homes of Dr. No-like figures. The 2002 theft of two Van Gogh paintings, View of the Sea at Scheveningen and Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen, from Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum on 7 December 2002 remained a mystery for more than a decade, with no promising leads on recovering the works. It came as a surprise when, in September 2016, Italian police involved in an unrelated raid on the holiday home of a member of the Camorra, the Campanian mafia, spotted the two Van Goghs proudly on display.
It’s cases like this that give life to the idea of the criminal art collector, even though such verified examples are few and far between. And yet they also serve to provide hope that perhaps some of our lost masterpieces (or even some of the tens of thousands reported stolen each year to Interpol) have been carefully preserved somewhere, hanging on a crime boss’s wall. For the world’s sake, we can only hope that Carravagio has met such a fate.
Reposted from Campus Life Security
High Point University participates in Protect-in-Place drill following incidents on campuses across the country
It happened at 11:46 a.m. on a Friday, just three weeks before the Parkland shooting. A southeastern university issued a campus-wide emergency notification advising a gunman was on or near campus, and that individuals should seek protective shelter immediately.
The incident was scary, but no gunman existed. This scenario was only an exercise where High Point University members, including students (for the first time), participated in the “Protect-in-Place” response strategy. (This campus chose not to use the “Lock-down” term as it is a misnomer for a Higher Ed campus.)
Evaluators moved quickly through academic buildings checking door handles and peering through door windows. Acting from the perspective of an armed assailant, these evaluators noted any opportunities that would have made them more capable of hurting their intended targets. At the end of the drill, an all-clear message was announced and activities resumed as normal.
During the exercise “hotwash” or debriefing, the drill’s evaluators assessed how well the university responded, what deficiencies were noted as well and what can be improved. Each shared their observations from their respective buildings, including who didn’t participate in the drill or if any environmental obstacles created challenges.
Following the hotwash, emergency management and security staff drafted an After Action Report (AAR) and Improvement Plan for senior administration, outlining the strengths and areas of weakness that the drill exposed. An AAR and improvement plan is created following any exercise or real-world emergency and the recommendations are prioritized and implemented, allowing for a process of continuous improvement.
EXERCISE DESIGN AND GOAL SETTING
The first step for conducting a successful exercise is to outline the scope of the exercise by identifying intended goals. Target a particular response procedure and/or systems. A common pitfall in exercise design is that either goals are not clearly established or the exercise has too many unfocused goals.
Reposted from the Allied Universal Blog
From welcoming guests with a warm friendly smile to giving directions to the nearest ATM to recommending the best local restaurant, the role that security personnel play in a building has changed dramatically over the past few years and is still evolving.
Property professionals wear many hats, and that’s true for security personnel as well. A security team may perform a wide variety of tasks as a concierge or lobby ambassador for a property. Security professionals may go the extra mile, escorting visitors and tenants to their vehicles after hours, putting out umbrellas during inclement weather and even delivering critical medical services. Many commercial building owners and managers view these traits as crucial elements of an outstanding security program, necessary to add a special touch for a positive tenant, employee and visitor experience.
Security personnel’s uniforms make them easily recognizable, so that people can quickly seek them out for assistance—and not just in an emergency. Their commanding presence acts as a crime deterrent and gives customers peace of mind.
As property teams become more and more customer-service oriented and office workers work longer hours, the role of the security team has expanded to include the following roles:
Caretaker: Assisting everyone who enters the building requires a high level of customer care. Security personal can take ownership of lobby and visitor management services and technologies to make every visit enjoyable and productive.
Greeter: Security professionals build relationships and welcome staff and tenants by name, offering a personalized level of service.
Custodian: As important custodians of the building and its tenants, security professionals know who should and should not have building access, allowing them to quickly make important security decisions.
First Responder: Trained security professionals can even save lives by delivering first aid, CPR and emergency medical services.
A security professional is often the first representative people see upon entering the building, whether they are a regular occupant or a one-time visitor. This role has the potential to make a big impact on meeting tenant and visitor expectations.
For building owners, a balanced, integrated approach of employing the right mix of security professionals, services and technology can provide the best possible tenant experience. The future of building security means being there for building tenants and their needs—no matter what or when.
Reposted from OHS Online
A June 4 afternoon session at #Safety2018, "The Fatal Flaws in Your Active Shooter Protocol," addressed the unfortunately highly relevant issue of active shooters from a workplace violence perspective. Speaker Bo Mitchell, President of 911 Consulting and a retired police commissioner, laid out the statistics on workplace violence and how employers should prepare.
According to the Department of Justice, the average workplace is 18 times more likely to experience an incident of workplace violence than a fire. Mitchell cited FBI statistics that measured one or more active shooters once a month on average for the five years previous to the Sandy Hook shooting; now these incidents are averaging once a week.
Almost all active shooter situations are over in 4-5 minutes, which means it's difficult for police to deploy in time. Because officials can't arrive instantaneously, Mitchell said, the true first responders in a workplace violence incident are the employer and employees, and training them to call the police is not enough.
In active shooter situations, the Department of Homeland Security says to Run, Hide, and Fight. According to Mitchell, this protocol's fatal flaw is that the first step should be Alert. He stressed that in a chaotic workplace violence situation, employers must have multiple methods to alert employees as to what is happening and what areas to avoid. He listed options such as a PA system, two-way radios, panic alarms, or alerts via cell phones, text messages, or locked computer screens. He emphasized that redundancy and multiple alarms are best.
Appropriate response and protocol in an active shooter situation is complex and not intuitive, Mitchell said, so there are many points that are vital to include when training employees. "We don't rise to our occasion, we sink to the level of our training," he explained.
He underscored that the main duty of police when entering an active shooter situation is to find the shooter, and that employees should be trained to understand that police officers cannot help them emotionally or medically in this instance. Employees also should be prepared to put their hands in the air and be treated as suspects and searched, he said.
Generalities in emergency action plans are dangerous, Mitchell said, adding that employers must prepare a protocol for workplace violence and active shooters that is specific for employees at each work site. He said that OSHA does not have regulations on workplace violence, but preparations would fall under the standards for emergency action plans and the General Duty Clause. Mitchell recommended creating an emergency action plan based not only on each specific work environment, but the emergency action/management standards set by OSHA and NFPA and the workplace violence standards set by the security organization ASIS International.
Reposted from Illinois News Bureau
A new book by a University of Illinois expert on rare-book crimes tells the story of the theft of valuable antique illustrations and the destruction of rare books from the University of Illinois Library.
Travis McDade, the curator of law rare books at the U. of I. law school, wrote a recently released book about the crime spree. “Torn from Their Bindings: A Story of Art, Science, and the Pillaging of American University Libraries” was published by the University Press of Kansas. It is the fourth book by McDade, whose training both as a librarian and a lawyer gives him a unique perspective on rare-book crimes.
Robert Kindred ran “the art world equivalent of a chop shop,” McDade wrote, cutting prints from academic libraries across the country during the summer of 1980. He was caught at the University of Illinois and prosecuted for the crime in central Illinois.
Academic and public libraries were particularly vulnerable to thieves like Kindred, McDade said, especially in the ’70s and ’80s, when libraries invested little in preserving or protecting their rare books. Thieves could easily sit in a remote corner of a library and cut illustrations from such books undetected.
McDade first learned of Kindred’s thefts in 2008 while preparing to teach a class on rare-book crimes. He remembered purchasing some inexpensive antique prints being sold by the University Library when he was in library school at the U. of I. He bought four prints at $5 each, and on the sales receipt was a note that the prints were recovered from a theft. The prints were not among those stolen by Kindred – they were recovered from a different theft – but McDade began looking into rare-book thefts and found Kindred’s story fascinating.
Kindred – who grew up in Villa Grove, Illinois – and an accomplice, Richard Green, broke into the University Library through the window of a first-floor men’s restroom. Kindred entered the library stacks, found the books he wanted to steal, tied them with a nylon rope and lowered the bundle out an eighth-floor window to Green, who was waiting below on the low roof of an adjacent building.
Unfortunately for the thieves, a maintenance worker arrived to check on the library’s air conditioning system and found the first pile of stolen books – a three-volume set of 19th-century lithographs with scenes of the Middle East and an 1832 book of illustrations of Italy – just as Kindred was in the midst of lowering a second bundle of books out the library window to Green.
“There’s this nighttime maintenance guy who stumbles on this crime. There’s this heart-pounding scene of these guys running across the street, hiding the items and getting in the car. And you get Kindred coming back to the scene of the crime, for reasons I can’t figure out,” McDade said. “This never happens in book crimes. There’s never any excitement.”
The book also highlights the painstaking work of the U. of I. librarians who sorted through thousands of stolen prints recovered from Kindred’s car and tried to determine what they were and where they might have been stolen.
“There’s these two librarians in the police station trying to reverse-engineer what happened. It’s this quiet-but-heroic effort by these guys,” McDade said.
His interest in this case arose not only from its connection to the U. of I. and Champaign-Urbana community, but also because Kindred was prosecuted both at the state and federal levels – a rarity.
Kindred was prosecuted for theft in Champaign County and received probation, to the disgust of the librarians who had spent months helping determine the value of the stolen items. But after another prominent library theft that included items from the University Library, the FBI’s interest in Kindred was renewed – he was prosecuted in federal court for interstate transportation of stolen property and sentenced to five years in prison.
“In my research, the federal prosecution of these crimes has really been the hero. The U.S. code takes these crimes seriously in ways that state codes don’t, and they punish these crimes accordingly,” McDade said.
He researched court records for both the state and federal cases, U. of I. police records and newspaper articles, and he interviewed many people involved with the case, including librarians, police officers and, finally, Kindred.
After years of research and work on the book, McDade tracked Kindred down and called him. To his surprise, Kindred was willing to talk, although not about the details of the thefts. McDade asked him about who he was and how he got to that point in his life.
“He was nice and gregarious and talkative, and remembered all these things,” said McDade, who had a complicated response to Kindred.
“Kindred, while a villain to me, is also this guy from east central Illinois who had a rough childhood. I tried to put myself in his position, and I thought, this was a guy who found himself in a position to be a success at something. He’d never been a distinguished guy, and he was all of sudden in a position where he was good at something. He was making money. People were paying attention to him. He was a success. That was a powerful motivator,” he said. “I understand how he got to that place, even if I don’t like him.”
Since Kindred’s crime spree, many of the books at the University Library that would be susceptible to theft have been moved to the rare-book stacks or to an off-site storage facility, McDade said. Other academic libraries have followed suit, but “across the country there remain really nice books in libraries that are vulnerable,” he said.
Unfortunately, many of the valuable prints have already been stolen from them, he said.
“The heartbreaking part of this is the looting and destruction of all these gorgeous books,” McDade said. “ I went to the library and looked at some of these books that had things cut out. It’s sort of visceral when you open a book and expect to find this gorgeous bird print, and you find nothing but a stub of where it was. It makes you angry.”
Last month, a Banksy print valued at about $40,000 was stolen from a Canadian exhibit of the artist’s work. It was a seemingly effortless crime—a man walked in, took the work off the wall, and walked out—but then, most art crimes are. The heavy lifting comes later.
“The main rule is that it’s not that hard to steal art, even from museums, but it’s almost impossible to translate that art into cash,” says Noah Charney, a scholar and author who’s published multiple books on art theft. Paintings can be quickly cut out of frames, and small sculptures can be tucked into bags—even jewelry can be secreted away—but finding a buyer for your art or diamonds is often impossible.
“Criminals don’t understand that, because their knowledge of art crime is based on fiction and films,” Charney says.
There are exceptions, of course, including a much-reported theft from March 2017 when four men from an Arabic-Kurdish crime family in Germany broke into Berlin’s Bode Museum and stole a 221-pound gold coin made by the Canadian Mint. Using DNA testing, the German police managed to hunt down and arrest the men in less than four months (one of them had worked as a security guard in the museum), but the coin was long gone.
The theft was notable, not just because the perpetrators were caught—a rarity in itself—but because they’d allegedly managed to sell what they stole for a significant sum of money.
If art thieves knew how hard it really was to sell the art they’d stolen, Charney says, there would almost certainly be far fewer art thefts.
The Good News (If You’re a Thief)
“We’re very bad at catching art thieves,” says Charney. “We have a very low recovery and prosecution rate: Something like 1.5 percent of cases of art theft see the art recovered and the criminal prosecuted.”
So, should a thief have a buyer waiting in the wings, or simply want a painting or art object for himself, there’s a very good chance he’ll get away with it. Add to that the cachet of being an art thief (“Art’s always been associated with the social elite, so it’s an aspirational thing” to take, Charney explains), and stealing art seems like a pretty good deal.
The Bad News
If you don’t have a buyer before you steal the work, you’re in trouble.
“People assume that they’ll find criminal art collectors,” Charney says, “when in fact, we have very few historical examples—maybe a dozen to 20 who fit the bill.” Keep in mind that many hundreds of art objects are stolen every year. Those, needless to say, are bad odds.
The Worse News
“When people don’t find those criminal buyers, they end up offering stolen stuff to people who look like the criminals they’re expecting to find,” Charney says. “And those people always end up being undercover police.”
In other words, people often steal art thinking they can sell it, realize that it’s not so easy (if it were, everyone who wanted to be a legitimate art dealer would be rich), end up doing a low-key but obviously indiscreet marketing effort to attempt to sell the art, and get caught.
Even if criminals aren’t desperate enough to start hawking their wares to strangers, once they discover that there isn’t a large group of shady businessmen willing to spend “whatever it takes” for a mediocre landscape painting, they fall back on a Plan B: “The backup plan is to ransom it back to the victim, or the insurance company,” Charney explains.
But given that this tactic is a clear sign of desperation, the victim/insurance company is in an almost unassailable negotiating position, which results, at least historically, in the ransom being reported to the police and the criminal getting caught.
“There really is no Plan B,” Charney says. “Unless it’s gold.”
And that leads us to the only real solution for thieves: steal something you can turn into something else, like the gold coin in Berlin. Charney cites the 2004 theft of a bronze sculpture by Henry Moore, valued at about 3 million pounds ($3.98 million).
The sculpture weighed about two tons, “and it was almost certainly chopped up and melted down, then converted to ball bearings,” Charney says. Hertfordshire police determined it was cut up on the night of the heist, moved through various scrap dealers, and shipped abroad. The raw material was worth just about 1,500 pounds.
This might seem like a raw deal to most, but Charney says you should look at it from the thieves’ perspective: “They’re going to say, I worked for three hours in one night and got 1,500 pounds.”
In the case of the Berlin coin theft, the thieves were in a similar position with a much more valuable commodity than bronze. Police suspect that the group melted the coin down and sold the gold for hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“Of course, that’s a fraction of its intact cultural value,” Charney says. “There’s almost never been a criminal who knew about, or cared about, art.”
Reposted from Yahoo News
A bibliophile who worked in a Hong Kong public library has been arrested for using the personal information of about 130 customers without their permission so she could quickly borrow their loaned books.
The 25-year-old woman, who formerly worked for a contractor company for Tseung Kwan O Public Library and was responsible for handling returned library materials from readers between 2015 and this year, was arrested on May 24, according to the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, which operates the library, and police.
A police source said she had used the personal data of users to file loss reports for library cards on their behalf. After the report, customers would no longer be able to renew loaned books and were required to return them immediately. That would allow the woman to borrow those items.
No financial losses were involved and no books were said to have been stolen, the source said.
The personal data included names, Hong Kong identity card numbers, addresses, telephone numbers and email addresses, a spokesman for the Leisure and Cultural Services Department said.
The department was alerted earlier when the library received inquiries from registered users regarding unsuccessful access to their online accounts.
A department investigation showed the users’ accounts were suspected to have been improperly accessed, and 129 had filed lost library card reports, or had changed the account passwords, resulting in the holders not being able to use the library’s online services.
The department then reported the incident on May 23 to police and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data.
It also tried to contact the suspected affected users, of whom 86 users were reached.
The spokesman appealed to all registered users to change their passwords as soon as possible
A task force led by an assistant department director was set up to review the security measures concerning the management of registered users’ personal data and to enhance the monitoring mechanism on outsourced service contractors’ performance, the spokesman said.
“The department is very concerned about the incident and would like to apologize to the affected users,” the spokesman said.
The woman, who was arrested for accessing a computer with criminal or dishonest intent, was later released on bail and must report back later this month.
The Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data said it had launched a compliance check.
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