Culture Crime Watchers Worldwide:
A digital platform to fight cultural crime
Walk of Truth aims in 2016 to gather the necessary support to launch Culture Crime Watchers Worldwide (CCWWTM), a unique, secure, innovative digital platform that will enable ordinary people, including refugees, to participate in the fight against the looting of antiquities from conflict zones. It will be a central registry for citizens and grassroots organisations to report destruction, looting and trafficking anonymously — the first platform with global reach that aims to harness the power of committed individuals and groups and to facilitate a fast flow of information between the scene of the crime and those in a position to take action. Using this crowd-sourced knowledge, Culture Crime Watchers Worldwide seeks to raise awareness about the value of cultural heritage, expose the dangers it faces in war zones and engender a collective, global sense of custodianship.
Culture Crime Watchers Worldwide will empower people who encounter information about cultural trafficking (for example the open sale of looted cultural objects or tips from refugees about smuggling routes from their home countries) to share what they know in absolute confidentiality. Using the best encryption software, it will allow informants to preserve their anonymity.
Culture Crime Watchers Worldwide will apply its broad experience of tackling cultural crime to determining how the information gleaned is used. Depending on the details of each case, it will share tips with the police without naming informants. It can also facilitate the start of legal proceedings or arbitration, or set in motion a process of voluntary restitution. Information obtained through Culture Crime Watchers Worldwide can be cross-checked through Walk of Truth’s contacts in the world of museums and art scholarship.
This initiative has been warmly encouraged by senior figures in the field of law enforcement. They acknowledge that police and customs alone, especially in an era of stretched budgets, cannot cope with the ever-rising challenge posed by traffickers in stolen cultural goods.
Whatever their immediate problems, many of the migrants now arriving in Europe from countries like Syria and Afghanistan are keen to play some part in the battle against the plundering of their homelands. One vital role can be to ‘blow the whistle’ on those looted cultural objects offered for sale to Western collectors. By engaging in this battle, they become stakeholders in their new adopted homes and join the struggle against the forces that have ruined their countries of origin.