European Journal on Criminal Policy and Research

, Volume 20, Issue 4, pp 475–486 | Cite as

Operation ‘Cerberus Action’ and the ‘Four Corners’ Prosecution

  • Carolyn Shelbourn


There is a generally accepted belief that a well publicised prosecution, which results in the conviction of the offenders will deter crime by sending out a ‘clear message’ to those intending to offend. Those who seek to enforce the legal protection of antiquities and archaeological sites will often decry the number of prosecutions brought, and urge a more aggressive prosecution policy against looters and traffickers in antiquities. However a prosecution may not always produce the anticipated outcome of deterrence. In this article a lawyer examines a recent high profile operation undertaken by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Bureau of Land Management against looters and traffickers in the south west of the United States for breaches of the Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979 and its outcome. It will begin with a short consideration of the context in which the prosecutions were brought: the scale of looting in the area; the difficulties facing those who have to enforce the law; the legal and historical background, and the belief of many in the area that they have a right to dig for artefacts and to collect or sell them. It will then consider ‘Operation Cerberus Action’ and its consequences in some detail, drawing on contemporaneous newspaper accounts and blog comments to illustrate that a prosecution, even where it results in conviction of all the defendants, may be counterproductive, serving only to entrench existing attitudes rather than encouraging behavioural change in intending looters and traffickers.


Antiquities Deterrence Looting Prosecution Sentencing Trafficking 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of LawUniversity of SheffieldSheffieldUK

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