Some of the jewellery stolen in the Green Vault heist. Image: Polizei Saxony

What should museums be doing to protect themselves against theft?

Geraldine Kendall Adams, 28.11.2019
Heists in Dulwich and Dresden shine a spotlight on security
One of the largest museum heists in Germany's history took place over the weekend at the Green Vault, part of the Royal Palace Museum in Dresden. 

Two thieves are believed to have stolen three sets of 18th-century jewellery “of immeasurable worth” in a smash-and-grab raid. Dresden police believe the thieves disabled the museum’s alarm system by setting fire to an electrical panel that cut the museum’s power supply and nearby street lighting. They entered the museum by cutting through a fence and smashing a window. 

CCTV footage shows one of the thieves breaking into a display case with an axe. Although the police arrived within minutes, the thieves were able to get away. Police believe a burnt-out car found elsewhere in the city on Monday morning may be connected to the burglary. 

The stolen items include a diamond brooch and diamond epaulettes.

The burglary comes weeks after a thief was foiled while attempting to steal two Rembrandts from London’s Dulwich Picture Gallery. The gallery has only just reopened after a fortnight of closure. 

The two heists have highlighted the challenges museums face when it comes to dealing with break-ins. So how can cultural institutions protect themselves against thieves? 

Arts Council England’s national security adviser William Brown has this advice: “All venues are encouraged to review alarm systems, lighting and other technology on a regular basis and to check for causes of any ‘apparent’ false alarm activations. It’s best practice to welcome all visitors to let them know their presence in the venue is recognised. 

“Venue managers should ensure staff are briefed and trained in the implementation of local emergency plans and the preservation of crime scheme, should the worst happen. 

“If unsure as to the motives or suspicious activity of visitors, seek guidance from management and if necessary let the police know.”

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