Friday, July 25, 2008


Investigating art-crime is certainly not at the top of most detective’s hit list.

Certainly the investigation of a theft of art or a cultural artifact is a demanding one to be presented to any investigator.

While many may think that this is a problem only to a squad that houses a major cultural institution inside its environs, the problem investigating the theft of valuable artwork is in no way limited to the 19 and 20 Squad’s!

Art and cultural property crime - which includes theft, fraud, looting, and trafficking across state and international lines -- is a looming criminal enterprise with estimated losses running as high as $6 billion annually.

To recover these precious pieces--and to bring these criminals to justice--the FBI uses a dedicated Art Crime Team of 13 Special Agents to investigate, supported by three Special Trial Attorneys for prosecutions...and it mans the National Stolen Art File, a computerized index of reported stolen art and cultural properties for the use of law enforcement agencies across the world.

The FBI established a rapid deployment Art Crime Team in 2004.

The team is composed of 13 Special Agents, each responsible for addressing art and cultural property crime cases in an assigned geographic region.

The Art Crime Team is coordinated through the FBI's Art Theft Program, located at FBI Headquarters in Washington, D.C. Art Crime Team agents receive specialized training in art and cultural property investigations and assist in art related investigations worldwide in cooperation with foreign law enforcement officials and FBI Legal Attaché offices.

Since its inception, the Art Crime Team has recovered over 850 items of cultural property with a value exceeding $134 million.

The National Stolen Art File (NSAF) is a computerized index of stolen art and cultural property as reported to the FBI by law enforcement agencies throughout the United States and the world. The NSAF consists of images and physical descriptions of stolen and recovered objects, in addition to investigative case information. The primary goal of the NSAF is to serve as a tool to assist investigators in art and cultural artifact theft cases and to function as an analytical database providing law enforcement officials with information concerning art theft.

All requests for searches of the National Stolen Art File must be made through a law enforcement agency in support of a criminal investigation. Individuals or organizations in the United States wanting to access the NSAF should contact their local FBI office.

Art crime represents the third highest grossing criminal enterprise worldwide, behind only drugs and arms trafficking. It brings in $2-6 billion per year, most of which goes to fund international organized crime syndicates.

Most art crime since the 1960s is perpetrated either by, or on behalf of, international organized crime syndicates. They either use stolen art for resale, or to barter on a closed black market for an equivalent value of goods or services. Individually instigated art crimes are rare, and art crimes perpetrated for private collectors are rarest of all.

One of the greatest problems is that neither the general public, nor government officials, realize the severity of art crime. Art crime funds all organized crime enterprises, including terrorism.

And yet it is often dismissed as a victimless crime, because it is not understood.

Italy has by far the most art crime, with approximately 20,000 art thefts reported each year. Russia has the second most, with approximately 2000 art thefts reported per year.
Italy is the only country whose government takes art crime as seriously as it should. Italy’s Carabinieri are by far the most successful art squad worldwide, employing over 300 agents full time. Other countries have had great success with their art squads, despite lack of governmental support, while many countries do not have a single officer dedicated to art crime, the third largest criminal enterprise worldwide.

Some interesting Art Crime Facts include the following:

142,258: The Number of Forged Works of Art Recovered in Italy in 2001

20,000-30,000: The Number of Reported Art Thefts per Year in Italy

845,838: The Number of Reported Art Thefts in Italy since 1969

$6-8 billion: Estimate of Annual Criminal Income through Art Crime(NOTE: this only covers known crimes—a greater percentage of crime go undiscovered, making this a low estimate)

Art Crime is the 3rd Highest-Grossing Criminal Trade over last 40 years (behind only Drugs and Arms)

1961: The year in which Organized Crime first became proactively involved in art crime. Since then most art crime is perpetrated by, or on behalf of, Organized Crime, thereby fueling their other activities, including the drug and arms trades and terrorism.

Art Crime Funds Terrorism: The IRA are just the most obvious example, but art crime, particularly the trade in illicit antiquities, is a funding source for fundamentalist terrorists in the North Africa and Middle East.

$300-500 million: Estimated value of artworks stolen during one night from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston.

0: The Number of Art Police Employed by Most Countries

50,000: The Minimum Number of Reported Art Thefts Worldwide Each Year

The United States: The World’s Primary Art Consumer, For Both Legitimate and Illicit Goods


The rate of suicides and murders committed by family members in Italy increases by 20% when the summer heat kicks in, a renowned Italian criminologist recently reported in an Italian news outlet.

Referring to the summer as a ''terrible'' season for psychiatry wards, Francesco Bruno from Rome's La Sapienza University said there was a direct correlation between soaring temperatures and fraying tempers.

''In 2007 we registered a little fewer than 600 murders, with an average of two a day. But if we look at the hottest - and therefore most critical - periods, the average soars to between 2.2 and 2.3 murders a day,'' Bruno said.

The criminologist explained that dehydration is a major element in people losing control of their aggressive impulses.

''The cerebral cortex needs a lot of water to function well. When the temperature soars, it can be a struggle to control both our destructive and auto-destructive impulses, which arrive from the deepest parts of the brain, resulting in the tragedies we read in the newspapers''.

People suffering from schizophrenia are especially at risk from losing control in hot weather, but Bruno added that ''all the psychiatric illnesses feel the heat: in summer we register an increase in the cases of depression too, especially among women''.

But the criminologist said the heat alone can't be blamed for the increase in violent crime within the family. ''We have to remember that loneliness plays a fundamental role during the summer months too: it can make problems worse and increase the desperation of people already at risk,'' he added.


The 1959 Self Portrait issue of SPRING 3100 details the many commands within the NYPD. A review of the Detective Division entry reveals some interesting items.

First, it is noted that the parent command is the Detective Division – and NOT Bureau.

Which is somewhat interesting as two of the components of the Detective Division are Bureau’s – the Narcotics Bureau, and the Central Investigation Bureau.

It was sometime later than 1959 that the Detective command took on the “Bureau” title, and the sub-units became “Divisions”.

Up until sometime in the 1970’s, enforcement of Narcotics crimes came under the command of the Detective Division, in its own Narcotics Bureau command. It wasn’t until the creation of the Organized Crime Control Bureau, under Police Commissioner Patrick Murphy, that the Narcotics Bureau was moved out of the Detective Division.

More on that at a later time.

The Detective Division had, under the Central Investigation Bureau, a Safe, Loft and Truck Squad.

This squad was a combination of what at one time consisted of two separate squads, the Safe and Loft Squad, and the Truck Squad.

“A large percentage of work done by the Safe, Loft and Truck detective is “tail work” where constant surveillance of thieves is necessary before making an arrest”. Undercover work was required before a safe mob could be caught burning or ripping open a safe or hijacking a truck.

“Members of the squad are chosen most often because they don’t look like policemen”.

It was noted that “especially selected are men who barely make the height requirements for the department”.

Much of their work consisted of “surveillance conducted in the fur and garment districts of the city, as well as the jewelry exchange and the high-class neighborhoods in upper Manhattan where expensive wares are easily carried and are available”.

The squad maintained a complete file on all known criminals, to help them in recognizing these thieves as they went along their way.

Two other interesting department squads, under the Headquarters Division, are mentioned.

Health Department Squad:

Enforcement of the Board of Health notices to owners of pets wanted for rabies tests on their animals are located here, as well as providing assistance to aid nurses in gaining entrance into homes where a person with an infectious disease is housed and where forcible removal has been ordered. They also conducted checks on the Board of Health licenses of undertakers, and helped to maintain order in inspections by food and sanitary inspectors. It was noted that the Health Department defrayed the salaries of the policemen assigned to this squad.

Mendicant Squad:

The Mendicant Squad had the special assignment of “corralling panhandlers and peddlers who annoy pedestrians on the streets or in the parks”. The squad also took under surveillance “homeless vagrants and derelicts who have no apparent means of support”.

Apparently the “guardians of the politically-correct” had not yet come into play in 1959.

(Note: The italics in the above quotes were added by me).


Any reader of NYPD History knows the wealth of information contained in the issues of SPRING 3100.

The long-running section of this magazine, “All In The Day’s Work”, recounts the commendable deeds of the members of this department.

In the December 1961 issue, the actions of some 73 Squad Detectives are noted.

A person who was impersonating a police officer in order to solicit money from the public, which he kept for his own, was put to an end by sharp-eyed Det. Fred Cuffee and Det. Jack Grace of the 73 Squad, as they nabbed the evil-doer who was dressed in a blue PD uniform – but wore brown shoes.

Incidentally, it is the cover of the December 1961 issue that has President John F. Kennedy riding in an open motorcade, escorted by a group from an NYPD Motorcycle Precinct, along with Mayor Wagner on his November 1961 visit to New York City.


A record of all the murders in New York City in 2008 that appear in the city's three daily newspapers. (Thanks to Lt. Seamus McHugh of the 77 Squad for the contribution of this interesting site.)


July 24, 1951 Ptl Albert Polite, 94 Pct, Motorcycle accident
July 24, 1971 Ptl Robert Denton, 73 Pct, Stabbed during investigation
July 26, 1923 Ptl Frank Romanella, 29 Pct, Shot during investigation
July 26, 1923 Ptl Charles Reynolds, 116 Pct, Shot
July 26, 1924 Ptl John Hyland, 42A Pct, Shot:Robbery in progress
July 26, 1957 Ptl Edward O’Leary, 7 Div, Auto accident transporting prisoner
July 27, 1942 Ptl Michael Keene, Traffic A, Auto accident on patrol
July 27, 1950 Ptl Roderick O’Connor, Mcy2, Motorcycle accident on patrol
July 27, 1964 Ptl Richard Walburger, 9 Pct, Shot:Burglary in progress
July 28, 1929 Ptl William Kerlin, ESU, Auto accident on patrol
July 28, 1930 Ptl Dominick Caviglia, 20 Pct, Shot:Burglary in progress
July 28, 1930 Det Thomas Hill, 48 Sq, Shot during investigation
July 29, 1906 Ptl William Hederman, 35 Pct, Drowned during rescue
July 30, 1945 Ptl Howard Hegerich, 28 Pct, shot during investigation
July 31, 1947 Ptl William Panczyk, Traffic Unit, Auto accident on patrol
July 31, 1965 Ptl. Maitland Mercer, 76 Pct, Shot-off duty arrest
Aug 1, 1913 Ptl Bernard O’Rourke, 146 Pct, Dragged by horse
Aug 2, 1922 Lt Albert Duffy, HQDiv, Explosion investigation
Aug 2, 1966 Ptl Edward Monzillo, Mcy2, Auto pursuit
Aug 2, 1979 Sgt Michael Russell, 75 Pct A/C, Shot:Off duty arrest
Aug 4, 1851 Sgt Michael Foster, NFI
Aug 4, 1913 Ptl Patrick Cotter, 65 Pct, Shot making arrest
Aug 4, 1928 Ptl Arthur Fash, 52 Pct, Electrocuted
Aug 4, 1953 Ptl Henry Ergen, 79 Pct, Assaulted
Aug 5, 1927 Ptl Hubert Allen, 52 Pct, Auto accident on patrol