understand the necessity to create a deeper cooperation between the EU Member
States in art crime policing, it is inevitable to examine the efforts made by
some of them regarding the prevention and investigation of art crimes. They all
have adopted for different level of national protection. Three major levels can
be underlined: low, middle and high1.
These different levels highlight a striking opposition between northern and
southern European countries.
Northern countries, such as Sweden, Denmark, Finland
or Norway have not created strong legislation nor police units dedicated to art
crime. Some of them have taken few initiatives but they are relatively insignificant.
Finland and Sweden have both a part-time art crime team, composed of few art
specialists working on a case-by-case basis. Otherwise, these countries show a
clear disinterest. This lack of interest is cause by the fact that they are not
notable art trade centres. As a result, this indifference can be seen in the
low financial resources provided to art crimes teams, when they exist, and the general
absence of databases for stolen art. In a nutshell, northern countries give
little priority to art crimes because they do not face significant criminal
activities in this field. For example, in 2010, Denmark counted no more than 50
to 80 offences in link to art crimes2.
Scandinavian countries hence do not feel concerned by this issue.
In contrast, southern countries such as Spain,
Italy and France, feel truly affected by art crimes. As a consequence, they
have tried to prevent cultural heritage crimes through significant legal
mediums and fully dedicated police units. Created in 1969, the oldest cultural
heritage specialised police unit is the Italian Comando Carabinieri Patrimonio Culturale3.
Divided into three branches and expanded in 12 regional sections, this unit
tends to prevent and deter art trafficking4.
In a similar manner, France began to police art crimes in the 70s. Renamed in
the late 1970s, the Central Unit for the Fight against Trafficking in Cultural
Goods (Office central de lutte contre le
traffic des biens culturels or OCBC) aims to recover stolen valuable objects5.
The collaboration between police officers and art experts undertaken within the
OCBC is illustrated in the 2017 French TV series L’Art du Crime.
In order to give more efficiency to their
investigations, these Member States have created databases registering stolen artefacts.
The Italian “Leonardo” database is
considered to be the most developed database dedicated to art crimes in the
world. Further, the French database, ” TREIMA 2 ” (Thesaurus de recherché électronique et d’imagerie en matière artistique),
is also one of the biggest.
In comparison with northern member states,
southern member states give further consideration in policing art crimes.
Southern member states, indeed, have to face a significant amount of criminal
activities in this area. In Italy, more than 20,000 thefts of art objects are accounted
annually. In practice, this number is even higher as a majority of stolen art
items is not disclosed to the police. It has been revealed by Interpol that art
thefts were mainly taken place in France, Poland, Germany and Italy6.
This is the reason why southern countries seem to go further, notably by
increasing the number of officers or by updating frequently their databases.
Between the northern and southern initiatives,
a middle ground does exist. It includes: the United Kingdom, Belgium, Germany
and some other EU Member States. Those countries show a rising attention in art
crimes. However, their interest in policing art crimes is not for the moment as
strong as the French or Italian ones. Taking the example of the United Kingdom,
after having been dissolved, the London Art and Antiques Unit was
re-established in the 90s7.
Indeed, due to numerous cases of robbery that the United Kingdom had to face,
it was necessary to rebuild this squad. Besides, The United Kingdom is one of
the most influential art markets in the World. The English art dedicated police
unit is composed of 15 members who are detectives, researchers and “ArtBeat” officers.
To help them in their investigation, the London Stolen Art Database (LSDA) has
been created8. It records
information and images of approximately 54,000 art items9.
The success of this Unit has led to a new project: “West End Impact Zone
Initiative”. It consists in the creation of a new police unit to deter and
reduce the number of heritage crimes in the City of Westminster10.
However, it seems in reality that the middle level of art crime policing tends
to disappear. This is mostly due to the significant costs that a fully art
specialised squad implies.
1 supra. 4 (Ludo Block)
2 supra 4. (Ludo Block.)
3 Noah Charney, Paul Denton and
John. Kleberg, ‘Protecting Cultural Heritage from Art Theft: International
Challenge, Local 0pportunity’ (2012) 81 FBI L. Enforcement Bull. 1,8.
4 Misnistero Della Difesa, The Carabinieri TBC<
http://www.carabinieri.it/multilingua/en/the-carabinieri-tpc > Accessed
31 December 2017.
5 Office Central de Lutte contre le Trafic de Biens < https://www.police-nationale.interieur.gouv.fr/Organisation/Direction-Centrale-de-la-Police-Judiciaire/Lutte-contre-la-criminalite-organisee/Office-central-de-lutte-contre-le-trafic-de-biens-culturels > Accessed 20 November 2017.
6 Amber J. Slattery, ‘To Catch an Art Thief : Using
International and Domestic Laws to Paint Fraudulent Art dealers into a Corner’
(2012), 19 VIll. Sports & Ent. L.J. 827,872.
Charney N. Denton P. Kleberg J. ; Block L.
9< http://collectionstrust.org.uk/resource/london-stolen-arts-database/ >
10 G.M. Prescott, ‘Impacting Heritage Crime – The
Metropolitan Police Service’s City of Westminster’s West End Impact Zone