Martin Bailey of the Art Newspaper has the story of Scotland Yard's part-time volunteer officers which have been tasked with policing art theft, the sale of looted antiquities, forgery and fraud.
This seems to be a good idea generally, and if it helps the Arts and Antiques Unit, that must be a good thing. But its no substitute for an open and honest market in art and antiquities.
ArtBeat began in January 2007, and there are currently 13 special constables (six males and seven females). These include two from national museums, three from the Art Loss Register, three archaeologists with the remainder from a variety of institutions. The two from museums are Zoe Jackman of the V&A (see below) and Michael Lewis of the British Museum, where he is deputy head of the Portable Antiquities Scheme.
The Art and Antiques Unit needs all the manpower it can get. Last year Scotland Yard proposed halving the staff of its Art and Antiques Unit, which had four officers. In the end, the cuts did not proceed and funding has been confirmed for the current financial year. Nevertheless, resources are tight and having 13 part-time special constables for two days a month is equivalent to one extra full-time officer. Inspector Alan Seldon told us: “There are only four officers in the unit. The scheme expands what we can do, and enhances our capability.” He wants to encourage more recruits from the London art scene.