December 13, 1942|
Brooklyn, New York
|Died||November 28, 2006
Staten Island, New York
|Relatives||Grace Volpe- wife, three children|
|Department||New York City Police Department (NYPD)|
|Years of service||1963 - 1983|
|Rank||Sworn in as an officer - 1963
Promoted to Detective - 1971
Born in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, Volpe studied art at the High School of Art and Design, Parsons School for Design and the Art Students League of New York. His art career began with paintings of tugboats during his teenage years, and later, in the 1970s, his abstract work sold for as much as $1500. After a stint in the army, he joined the New York City police force and initially worked undercover on organized crime cases, including narcotics work related to the French Connection. After making several art crime arrests, in 1971 he was appointed the sole member of the New York City Police Department's bureau for art crime, the only bureau of its kind in the nation.
His work was varied, including art theft, vandalism, and forgeries, and he took as many as 40–50 calls per day from around the world. In 1981, he recovered an 1858 candelabrum once owned by the king of Egypt only 11 days after being notified of the theft by British authorities. Over his desk hung a congratulatory photograph from the foreign minister of Italy for recovering two ivories worth $1.5 million stolen from a museum in Pesaro. After Volpe's retirement in 1983, art crimes began to be handled by the burglary division.
Volpe died in Staten Island in 2006, and was survived by his wife, three siblings, and three children. One of his sons, Justin Volpe, served as a New York City police officer until being convicted of assaulting Abner Louima.
- Douglas Martin (December 5, 2006). "Robert Volpe, Art-Theft Expert, Dies at 63". New York Times. p. A25. Retrieved 2008-04-06.