Robert K. Wittman is a legend in the world of art theft. Why is recounted in his new book, Priceless, which is filled with stories from his time recovering $225 million worth of stolen art over a 15 year career:
While he is generally admiring of the agency where he worked for 20 years, the refrain throughout his book is that the F.B.I. cares little about recovering stolen artwork, a job it is often better equipped to perform than local law-enforcement agencies.
“Most art crime investigations are run by the same local F.B.I. unit that handles routine property theft,” he writes. “Art and antiquity crime is tolerated, in part, because it is considered a victimless crime.” But in an ode to human creativity that sounds a little odd coming from a federal agent, he adds that his view was always different: “Art thieves steal more than beautiful objects; they steal memories and identity. They steal history.”
His Heart Is in the Art of Sleuthing (New York Times)