How Big Of A Problem Is Art Theft In The US?

Published: Friday, March 10, 2017 - 4:11pm
Updated: Friday, March 10, 2017 - 4:22pm

When you think about art theft, what comes to mind? Maybe something like "The Thomas Crown Affair." But while everyone loves a good caper movie, art theft is actually a pretty serious, and lucrative, problem.

A few years ago, the U.S. Justice Department listed art theft behind only drug and arms trading as the highest-grossing criminal trades. That includes pieces stolen from museums, but also looted from Native American reservations, and taken off the walls in people’s houses.

Earlier this year, the BBC reported an operation carried out by the European police agency led to the arrest of more than 48,000 people. It also recovered more than 400 coins and a marble tombstone dating from the Ottoman Empire, among other objects.

To get a sense of how prevalent this is on this side of the Atlantic, I spoke with Bonnie Magness-Gardiner, art theft program manager at the FBI.

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