The art of theft: invisible crime exposed in NSW
It often goes unreported, unrecognised and unsolved but the underworld of art crime is about to start hitting the headlines once again thanks to a University of Western Sydney humanities lecturer.
Dr Pamela James, Lecturer in cultural and social analysis at the UWS School of Humanities and Communication Arts, has worked closely with the NSW Police Force in recent months to begin establishing the 'Art Crime Consultative Committee'.
"This is an innovative, internationally unique answer to the outbreak of a niche, and often invisible, crime," says Dr James.
The committee aims to enhance the Police's investigative and crime prevention capabilities in the area of art crime following a number of high-profile investigations, and the identification of a lack of policing expertise in this area in recent years.
"Art crime is the invisible crime - public galleries often do not report theft as it could show their security as being insufficient, and private collections may not wish to publically draw attention to the value of their collections," says Dr James.
"Artworks can be so small that sometime galleries don't notice a missing piece for months. The art market can unknowingly pass on stolen or fraudulent art and the criminal art market operates in a unique way, rather different to the market for other stolen goods."
Dr James' passion for art and the prevention of art crime helped her to instigate the establishment of the Committee with the Police.
"Art crime is not a priority here in Australia, especially when you compare how we handle it to how European countries handle it," says Dr James.
"There is no expertise in the NSW Police Force to help deal with the crime while countries such as Italy have specific taskforces. This Committee will help to equip the Police Force with the necessary mechanisms, skills and protocols to protect our art market."
Art experts, greater training and cross jurisdictional liaison in the specialised area of art crime will all become more accessible with the formation of the Committee which will be chaired by the Property Crime Squad and include representatives from the Fraud and Cybercrime Squad, the University of Western Sydney and other relevant industry and law enforcement bodies.
27 November 2013