The FBI is debuting a free online tool that helps people help the government recover stolen works of art.
The site, the National Stolen Art File, currently has about 7,000 images of stolen artworks in a searchable database.
It's impossible for the FBI to look for every piece of stolen art in the country, said Bonnie Magness-Gardiner, who manages the FBI art theft program. Having this online, searchable database accessible to the public as well as local law enforcement takes advantage of our technological resources to help curb the age-old problem of art theft.
The site contains an exhaustive list of art categories - from bowls to stamps, pendants to paintings - that an individual can peruse, and can contact authorities if he sees a work he may know something about.
For those considering buying and selling works of art -- gallery owners, brokers, and private collectors -- the database is one way to make sure potential purchases are legitimately for sale, authorities said.
If a collector or gallery owner checks our site and sees that a piece of art is stolen, that's an immediate red flag, and they can contact us, Magness-Gardiner said.
For law enforcement, particularly local agencies that investigate burglaries and other thefts, the database will eventually be accessible through the Law Enforcement Online (LEO) website, so local police departments can add to the list.
Any object stolen within the U.S. with a value of more than $2,000 can be listed. There are some international pieces in the file, but this is primarily a resource for reporting the theft of artwork within the United States.
We want to solicit any and all information from the public about the stolen material, Magness-Gardiner said. And we in turn will provide this information to a much wider audience. This is a first step, and as we grow, we look forward to working with local law enforcement, the art community, and the public.