The lesson: Light penalties widely applied and serious penalties applied to a few can both deter unlawful behavior. This is a central conclusion of Gary Becker’s path-breaking economic analysis of crime and punishment. But in the case of riots, it is awfully hard to actually prove wrongdoing and extremely important to clear the streets. Arresting widely and temporarily can be far more effective.
The same conditions hold for antiquities looting and trafficking: it is very difficult to prove wrongdoing and extremely important to clear the sites of looters. So a policing strategy of more arrests and fewer major prosecutions might make sense for antiquities looting, at least where the looters are doing so opportunistically. For the professionals, whether looters or fences/middlemen/dealers or receivers of stolen goods/collectors, on the other hand, it might be insufficient deterrent to arrest widely and temporarily. There are not that many of them, innocent dealers and collectors might get swept up (which could of course also happen in riots), and unlike poor rioters, the dealers and collectors are powerful enough to go after the police chief or prosecutor who opted for such a strategy. For the pros, then, serious penalties applied to a few -- i.e., Fred Schultz -- is probably the better course. The best course, though, would be to harden the sites to make looting more difficult and dangerous for the would-be looter.
Due diligence and collecting histories - Collecting histories are important. They indicate the routes through the antiquities market. And the collecting histories for objects that have been return...
16 hours ago