Heritage crime

by Mark Rowe

Author: Edited by Louise Grove, Suzie Thomas

ISBN No: 9781 137357502

Review date: 01/12/2023

No of pages: 256

Publisher: Palgrave

Publisher URL:

Year of publication: 21/01/2015


Simply raising awareness of heritage crime may help to protect our cultural assets, authors in a new book on the subject suggest.



Simply raising awareness of heritage crime may help to protect our cultural assets, authors in a new book on the subject suggest.

While the book arises out of work by English Heritage on crime against its property, such as theft and vandalism, much of the book is given over to overseas stories, from Finland, Norway, Cyprus, eastern Europe and Peru for example; and about the ‘global trade in illicit antiques’. There an Australian criminologist, Kenneth Polk, lays out the international supply chain in such wartorn countries as Iraq and Libya, from tomb robbers to smugglers and middle-men to launderers and buyers. It poses questions for all in that chain, from cash in transit couriers to auction houses to galleries and museums and the eventual buyers. Compared with the civil wars raging in Syria, for instance, why bother about looting of some old stones and objects? So what if a Henry Moore statue is melted down for scrap – no-one’s been hurt?! The book concludes by suggesting that there’s ‘much to be positive about in the world of heritage crime’, as heritage professionals and police are getting together to convince others that heritage is worth protecting. Education may sound a glib answer, but it can go a long way towards making safe assets for later generations.

UK readers may turn with confidence to the crime science academic writers of several chapters: notably veterans Ken Pease, and Nick Tilley. But security manager readers may turn first to the chapter by Victoria Price, an intelligence analyst for Durham Police. She details theft of lead from church roofs in the county, some repeat offences. She takes the reader through the stats in the force area, and offers a ‘script analysis’ – that is, a ‘script’ of how the crime is done, from selecting the church to scaling the roof and delivering the stolen lead to the scrap metal dealer. Then you apply ‘situational measures’ to prevent such a crime, whether marking the lead, working on the dealers (Durham Police gave them UV torches to show up marked property under ultraviolet light), or simply locking away ladders and locking gates, so it’s harder for the thieves to get on the roof. It doesn’t have to be all technology or physical security; what about a church watch scheme?

In a later chapter a Sheffield University law lecturer Carolyn Shelbourn, goes over prosecutions in the US and UK for such crimes, whether metal detecting on historic sites (which means the artefacts are lost to archaeology), or graffiti on castle walls.

With a foreword from Mark Harrison FSA, National Policing and Crime Advisor, English Heritage and Honorary Research Fellow, University of Kent. Visit www.palgrave.com.

Heritage Crime: Progress, Prospects and Prevention, Edited by Louise Grove, Suzie Thomas. Hardcover, 256 pages, Published 2014 by Palgrave.


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