Of the many crimes that are present in this day and age, one that not only vandalizes the property, but as well as historical background is that of art theft. A crime that has taken away the sanctity of churches as well as many other religious and historical sites. Thefts have ranged from WWII (World War II) to the times of the Holocaust. Of the items that were taken from the churches, relics were items of great priority. These items not only had great value to the churches they were stolen from, but a great value to relic collectors. Most of the items taking during these times were either sold or placed in underground storage. Most of these items that were place in these secret places were never to be seen again. From the times of these so called "relic hunters" to now, art theft has become something that has taken some extreme changes. It has evolved from crime that started with minor relic thefts to something that has become a worldwide crime in need of better prevention.
Art theft is a crime that has been on the rise for the last half of this century. "According to law enforcement officials, art theft now ranks second only to drugs as the world's most lucrative illegal activity." (Journal of Commerce) Whether bought, created, or stolen, art has become something that is of great demand. "Art theft has flourished as never before. Just keeping up with the number of stolen objects and their total value is a big-time guessing game." (Dudar) This is a problem that not only faces us as art owners and collectors, but museums and auction houses as well. Everyone possessing a piece of artwork is at risk of art theft. This artwork doesn't have to be anything out of the ordinary to be a target. Along with famous paintings, sculptures, and other types of artwork, many insignificant or unrecognized pieces of artwork are being stolen too. "Most thefts appear to be the work of thieves without serious art education. Along with the good stuff, they are apt to sweep up junk - those sappy gift-shop paintings of kids with enormous eyes, for example, which no serious collector would covet." (Lowenthal) On the other hand some of these thefts are being done by some of the best in the business. "Some thieves have turned out to be professionals who, following fashion, switched from robbing video stores to burgling art. Some are actually specialists in vehicle thievery; they make off with a truck then discover that the freight includes some salable pictures. A few are insiders with easy access: doormen, night watchmen, butlers, occasionally even a curator satisfying a longing to own art he or she can't afford." (Lowenthal)With the demand of art increasing, museums and auction houses want to have the best of what there is to offer on display. Placing the best on display causes more of a risk of theft to take place. This is just one of the many issues that these places are faced with. "The issue facing security managers and owners of museums and galleries is this: Works of art are meant to be seen by the public or potential purchasers. Visitors expect to be allowed to scrutinize the objects on display. Thus, the museum's assets are immediately susceptible to theft or damage, whether accidental or deliberate." (Burrows, p.34) Therefore a type of security must be in place to prevent this from happening. How should this security system designed? "In designing museum security, I suggest a three-step approach: (1) List what to protect. (2) Consider what is likely to happen to it. (3) Consider action to counter the threat." (Burrows, p.34)This step seems obvious, yet is all too often neglected. Careful cataloging when goods arrive not only helps with future insurance claims but also greatly eases ongoing checks and any later disputes as to when damage occurred. In fact, more loss may occur through accidental damage during the setup of displays than through theft. In addition, damage may not be noticed for some time. Invariably, displays are set up...
Bibliography: Works CitedAttrino, Tony. "Insurers Get Help In Tracking Stolen Art." National UnderwriterProperty & Casualty-Risk & Benefits Management. Aug. 17, 1998. Vol. 102.
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Burrows, Robin. "Artful Protection from Down Under." Museum Security. Feb. 1992.
Pg. 34, 37-8.
Dudar, Helen. "Making a dent in the trafficking of stolen art." Smithsonian. Sept. 1995.
Vol. 26. N. 6. Pg. 34 (7).
Journal of Commerce. Dec. 11, 1990.
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