Private citizens and art institutions alike can now track down stolen art conveniently from their phones. On 10 April, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) released an app-based version of the US National Stolen Art File (NSAF), its database of stolen artworks and culturally significant objects.
The NSAF app was initially designed for law enforcement and art industry workers, but anyone in the world can use it to verify cultural property’s legal status with a few taps and swipes.
"One of the biggest evolutions for NSAF was making it publicly available", Colleen Childers of the FBI's art crime programme said in a statement. "Now, with the new mobile upgrade that we’ve undergone, we want to continue to push to make it a more user-friendly platform."
The app boasts search and filter functions that categorise art by description, location and genre, as well as sharing capabilities to help spread the word and submit tips directly to the FBI. The app is free to download and use.
The FBI's NSAF app is not the first time the public's mobile phones have been deputised in the search for stolen art. In 2014, the art crimes team of Italy's Carabinieri released the first-ever smartphone app to enlist public support in the fight against cultural heritage crime. And in 2021, the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol) launched the ID-Art app, a tool that enables broader access to the organisation's database of stolen art while simultaneously reporting and recording at-risk cultural heritage sites and objects.