The Italians are becoming increasingly concerned at the large number of historic and valuable works of art which are being stolen and smuggled out of the country.
SV PAN FROM Traffic TO St Peters
CU Newspaper page with photo of "Pieta" PAN TO man who did damage
CU Infra-red alarm PULL BACK to tourists in front of glass screen
CU ZOOM OUT statue
GV Venice PAN TO Gondolas
MV Doges Palace
SV Tourists PULL BACK TO GV St Marks Cathedral
CU PAN Paintings in church of St. Maria del Popolo, Rome
CU Sergio Merico leaves office and switches on alarm systems PAN UP TO Alarms
CU Sign on door PULL BACK TO Thief entering
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CU Alarm registering presence of intruder
CU Fountain PAN TO EXT of church of St. Maria del Popolo
Initials ET/1836 ET/1916
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Background: The Italians are becoming increasingly concerned at the large number of historic and valuable works of art which are being stolen and smuggled out of the country.
In the first six months of this year more than 4,500 works of art were stolen from houses, churches and museums. There were 319 separate raids. Thefts are running at about the same level as last year and the detection rate remains about the same, with approximately half the stolen works being recovered.
There are two main reasons for the art thefts. First, Italy is the largest repository of sculptures and paintings in the West. Many of them are found in country churches and museums with only the minimum of security.
The second reason is the difficulty Italy finds in co-ordinating international action against art thieves. Authorities believe most of the stolen treasures end up in the hands of dealers in Switzerland, France, West Germany and Austria.
The first problem is being tackled. More and more of the churches and museums and even private houses are installing sophisticated burglar alarms.
Action on the diplomatic front is slower. The country's neighbours could ratify the UNESCO convention on stolen art works which undertakes to return stolen works to their country of origin. They could also abolish amnesty laws which at present allow stolen art works to be sold without fear of prosecution five-years after their theft. So far they have taken no action.
Italy's current economic problems may also be contributing to the "art drain". Italians are not allowed to take currency out of the country, but officials believe many are buying priceless works of art, smuggling them out to Switzerland or other near-by countries and then selling them.
The Italians are also protecting more of their artistic heritage from physical attack and disfigurement.
Two years ago a Michelangelo statue known as the "Pieta" was damaged when a man attacked it with a hammer after stepping over a low balustrade. The restored sculpture is now protected by a three-sided plastic screen and an elaborate infra-red alarm system.