Friday, May 12, 2006




On March 13th, 1964, one of one of the most infamous crimes in American history occurred in the Kew Gardens neighborhood of Queens, New York. At around 3 AM, 28-year-old Catherine "Kitty" Genovese was attacked, sexually assaulted, and murdered as she walked from her parked car. The assault lasted thirty-five minutes and occurred outside of an apartment building where a reported 38 witnesses either heard or saw the attack and did nothing to stop it. A front-page article in the New York Times sparked an avalanche of press and weeks of national soul searching. The case has lived on in plays, musicals, TV dramas -- it even spawned a whole new branch of psychology. Today the name Kitty Genovese remains synonymous with public apathy.

It seems in Italy they have an Antique Police Force. I don’t mean a police force consisting of older members, but an entire police force dedicated to preventing the theft and tracking of stolen ancient artifacts. Highlighted in a recent Wall Street Journal article written by Stephanie Gruner, the Carabinieri for the Protection of Cultural Patrimony is perhaps the largest armed force of its kind anywhere, and most surely the world’s most effective. There are over 300 of the country’s 120,000 carabinieri, in 11 offices from Venice to Palermo, leading the anti-looting and recovery efforts for this country’s antiquities.“Each morning a report arrives on the desk of Col. Giovanni Pastore, second in command of a military police unit charged with protecting Italy’s cultural patrimony. The few pages list everything from antique watches to Renaissance paintings that were either ripped off or recovered the day before. ”A recent report listed that “robbers entered a church in Ascoli Piceno and left with two ancient wood pews, the better for making fake antique furniture. A burglar at a church farther north in Novara had just enough time to break the wooden arm off of a baby Jesus, as it lay cradled in the arms of the Virgin Mary, before making an escape. Thieves stole a cache of marble statues from a family villa elsewhere. On a bright note, more than two dozen sculptures, antiques and paintings were recovered just one month after their theft from a villa outside Milan. ”These antiques gumshoes have become internationally well-regarded, and have served as experts and trainers in Iraq, Kosovo, Cuba and Peru. Representatives from countries such as Greece and Hungary have traveled to Italy to learn how these officers work. In an average week, carabinieri fly helicopters over archaeological sites taking aerial photographs to reveal illegal diggings. They go on offshore dives to prevent unauthorized underwater excavations. They also lecture at schools, universities and conferences “to convince Italians that looting and trafficking in their own cultural heritage isn’t just against the law, but against their own interests. Still other officers in their stylish black-and-red uniforms show up unannounced at antiques shops, auction houses and outdoor markets to videotape items for sale to match against the more than 2.5 million missing objects cataloged in the art squad’s vast database.”They don’t stop there. There are others searching through other databases that list sales at auction houses such as Sotheby’s and Christie’s, and also surfing the internet to find hot antiquities for sale. They also utilize wire-tapping, satellites, and other modern technological devices in their battle to track down stolen goods.What detective force would exist without its “sources of information” – paid and unpaid. Archaeologists, museum curators, and the anonymous source all contribute to their success. “Sometimes it’s a tombaroli with a grudge against a competitor who tips them off. Other times word arrives out of the blue – like the email received recently with a link to an auction on eBay, listing for sale an Etruscan urn missing since the summer of 2004. ”Between 1970 and 2005, according to the organization’s own figures, 845,838 objects were reported stolen, while less than a third of that number were recovered and only 4,159 arrests were made. In addition, according to Col. Pastore, the number of robberies at private properties has decreased from 673 in 2003 to 619 in 2005. This unit has also confiscated over 228,000 counterfeit works since 1970.Despite the odds, this unit is credited with doing an outstanding job.The quantity of potential targets is quite astounding. Italy has some 6,000 registered archaeological sites, 100,000 or so churches, more than 45,000 castles and gardens, and roughly 35,000 historic residences – not to mention thousands of miles of coastline, beneath which lie yet more buried treasure. All are potential targets.Some of the obstacles that arise include the issue that many of these valuabvles aren’t cordoned off behind ropes or protected by glass walls, much less watched around the clock by guards or cameras. “Italy is not a country of museums”, says a cultural ministry employee. “It’s a museum in itself, a large open-air museum.”Not surprisingly, funding is another issue that often stands in the way.Financing for cultural affairs have been drastically reduced by the government – by over 20% in just the past two years alone. While these cuts have hit protection efforts, it was also noted by the ministry official that “no matter how much money Italy has for art protection, preservation and anti-looting, it’s never enough.” Not only protecting the theft of these antique items from their Italian home, the unit spends a considerable amount of time fighting the demand for these objects overseas. In the United States alone, hundreds of museum pieces remain under dispute as to their rightful ownership.The squad’s operational headquarters, in Rome, houses the loot collected in their crime fighting efforts. A recent visit their showed art work from Picasso, Dali, Miros and a delicate Degas ballerina line up along the floor – all fakes. The seller applied for and got an export license for his “masterpieces” but they were stopped at the border – all counterfeit.

Thursday, May 04, 2006


Check out this site that allows you to generate a police sketch (well...sort of):

A detective must be good at talking to people – all kinds of people. Complainants, witnesses, victim’s family, and suspects who we require a statement from.

In a recent book written by Professor Robert Jackle, titled “Street Stories” (which has been highlighted on this site previously), Giorgio provides his keys for interrogation. It is certainly worth posting here."Detective Gennaro Giorgio (NYPD Ret.), dressed to the nines and with his customary aplomb, testified about his cat-and-mouse interviews and conversations with (a suspect). Giorgio’s rules for interrogation are simple and straight forward:
"Know the case from beginning to end, down to the smallest detail. Specific knowledge is the key to successful interrogation. Listen patiently to suspects. Never confront them in an accusatory way. At first, write nothing, taking in everything a suspect says without challenge. Then go back over the suspect’s statement, writing it out carefully. Read it back to the suspect and have him sign it. Lock suspects into their statements, whether true or false. Then key in on inconsistencies in the statements or on aspects of the statements one knows independently to be false. Make careful notes of casual conversations with suspects. Sometimes suspects blurt out damning statements spontaneously at off-guard moments. Observe the suspect’s demeanor carefully during the interview, especially when he is telling known lies. Make a mental note of any behavioral patterns that regularly accompany the known lies, such as facial tics, hand rubbing, head touching, turning away, licking lips, or displays of anger. Point out the lies without, at first, letting the suspect know how one knows he is lying. Ask the suspect why he is lying. Then point out some piece of actual evidence that contradicts his story. Insistently but quietly demand an explanation for the discrepancy. If none is forthcoming, move on to the next discrepancy. If one has no tangible evidence on hand, use dodges, ruses, or tricks to elicit statements from suspects. At a certain point, offer the suspect an out—a plausible explanation, justification, or excuse for his depredation, suppressing all personal moral revulsion and clearly indicating that one understands and indeed empathizes with such a motive or account. In short, let suspects convict themselves with their own words. Denials of guilt are as useful legally as admissions or confessions if one has independent evidence to undermine the denials and thus the suspect’s credibility before a jury.