To is the Italian Comando Carabinieri Patrimonio Culturale[3].

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Last updated: April 13, 2019

Tounderstand the necessity to create a deeper cooperation between the EU MemberStates in art crime policing, it is inevitable to examine the efforts made bysome of them regarding the prevention and investigation of art crimes.

They allhave adopted for different level of national protection. Three major levels canbe underlined: low, middle and high1.These different levels highlight a striking opposition between northern andsouthern European countries.  Northern countries, such as Sweden, Denmark, Finlandor Norway have not created strong legislation nor police units dedicated to artcrime. Some of them have taken few initiatives but they are relatively insignificant.

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Finland and Sweden have both a part-time art crime team, composed of few artspecialists working on a case-by-case basis. Otherwise, these countries show aclear disinterest. This lack of interest is cause by the fact that they are notnotable art trade centres. As a result, this indifference can be seen in thelow financial resources provided to art crimes teams, when they exist, and the generalabsence of databases for stolen art. In a nutshell, northern countries givelittle priority to art crimes because they do not face significant criminalactivities in this field. For example, in 2010, Denmark counted no more than 50to 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, theyhave tried to prevent cultural heritage crimes through significant legalmediums and fully dedicated police units. Created in 1969, the oldest culturalheritage specialised police unit is the Italian Comando Carabinieri Patrimonio Culturale3.Divided into three branches and expanded in 12 regional sections, this unittends to prevent and deter art trafficking4.In a similar manner, France began to police art crimes in the 70s. Renamed inthe late 1970s, the Central Unit for the Fight against Trafficking in CulturalGoods (Office central de lutte contre letraffic des biens culturels or OCBC) aims to recover stolen valuable objects5.

The collaboration between police officers and art experts undertaken within theOCBC is illustrated in the 2017 French TV series L’Art du Crime. In order to give more efficiency to theirinvestigations, these Member States have created databases registering stolen artefacts.The Italian “Leonardo” database isconsidered to be the most developed database dedicated to art crimes in theworld. 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 criminalactivities in this area. In Italy, more than 20,000 thefts of art objects are accountedannually.

In practice, this number is even higher as a majority of stolen artitems is not disclosed to the police. It has been revealed by Interpol that artthefts were mainly taken place in France, Poland, Germany and Italy6.This is the reason why southern countries seem to go further, notably byincreasing 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, Germanyand some other EU Member States. Those countries show a rising attention in artcrimes.

However, their interest in policing art crimes is not for the moment asstrong as the French or Italian ones. Taking the example of the United Kingdom,after having been dissolved, the London Art and Antiques Unit wasre-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 ofthe most influential art markets in the World. The English art dedicated policeunit is composed of 15 members who are detectives, researchers and “ArtBeat” officers.To help them in their investigation, the London Stolen Art Database (LSDA) hasbeen created8. It recordsinformation and images of approximately 54,000 art items9.

The success of this Unit has led to a new project: “West End Impact ZoneInitiative”. It consists in the creation of a new police unit to deter andreduce the number of heritage crimes in the City of Westminster10.However, it seems in reality that the middle level of art crime policing tendsto disappear.

This is mostly due to the significant costs that a fully artspecialised squad implies. 1 supra. 4 (Ludo Block)2 supra 4.

(Ludo Block.) 3 Noah Charney, Paul Denton andJohn. Kleberg, ‘Protecting Cultural Heritage from Art Theft: InternationalChallenge, Local 0pportunity’ (2012) 81 FBI L. Enforcement Bull. 1,8.4 Misnistero Della Difesa, The Carabinieri TBC  Accessed31 December 2017.

5 Office Central de Lutte contre le Trafic de Biens > Accessed 20 November 2017.6 Amber J.

Slattery, ‘To Catch an Art Thief : UsingInternational and Domestic Laws to Paint Fraudulent Art dealers into a Corner'(2012), 19 VIll. Sports & Ent. L.J. 827,872.

7 Ibid.Charney N. Denton P. Kleberg J. ; Block L.8 Ibid.

9< >10 G.M. Prescott, ‘Impacting Heritage Crime – TheMetropolitan Police Service’s City of Westminster’s West End Impact ZoneInitiative’. 

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