Perhaps the biggest surprise arising from last night's high profile art heist in Paris isn't the theft itself, but the facts that this happens so often, that it happens so often in modern times, and that it is apparently easier to break into museums than most apartment buildings. In this latest example, a real-life Thomas Crown might have been embarrassed by the lack of elegance required to pull off the job.
It stands to reason that museums utilize sophisticated cost/benefit analysis techniques when determining what level of security is necessary, particularly after-hours. One would imagine the calculations including items like insurance payments, alarm system costs and pay for guards on one side, and such factors as odds of recovery and insurance payoff on the other.
Then again, maybe museums don't hire economists. In addition to losing out on what are often significant pieces in their collections after heists, there are other lingering costs that museums don't seem to factor in, such as the inevitable hit to their reputation and the possible lack of future contributions from those who fear for their property. If such things are factored in, it is shocking to think that many museums with billions of dollars worth of art and artifacts still have less security than the average suburban home.
Most museums receive donations, charge an entrance fee and/or are privately funded. Some even receive public funds. Though there are certainly day to day administrative costs and utility bills to pay, it seems that many institutions need to rethink their costs and put more money into security. Making off with half a billion Euros worth of goods shouldn't be as easy as climbing a fence and breaking a window. Every time this happens, it is merely another opportunity lost for those who could otherwise be protecting the great collections of the world.