Tracking stolen art with an app | 60 Minutes

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Whether it is antiques looted in war, paintings stolen from museums, or items thieved from archaeological sites, thousands of artifacts disappear around the world each year. According to UNESCO, the subsequent trafficking of this stolen cultural property isn’t just illegal; it also strengthens organized crime and helps finance terrorism. Now Interpol has made it easier for everyone to help stop it — and to protect themselves from buying stolen artwork. 

Interpol, the international police organization that collects and shares information with law enforcement agencies around the world, has created an app called ID-Art. It is a database of stolen artwork that uses image recognition software. The goal is to identify and document stolen artwork and cultural artifacts and increase the likelihood they will be recovered. 

So far, there are more than 52,000 stolen objects in the database. 

Anyone can download the app on their smart device. Once added, users can search manually, looking up such information as artist, object type, or country of origin. They can also take a photo; image recognition software then searches the database to see if there is a match. That way, if a gallery or individual buyer is considering purchasing a work of art, they can quickly determine whether it has been classified as stolen. 

The app can also be used to report an item as stolen or to identify cultural sites as potentially at risk. 

Cyril Gout, a forensic expert from the French national police, oversees Interpol’s 19 massive databases of crime, including stolen art. He encourages people to download ID-Art and help find some of the thousands of missing artworks around the world.

“You are doing yourself good and the community, as well,” he said.

The video above was produced by Brit McCandless Farmer and edited by Sarah Shafer Prediger and Joe Schanzer.  

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