Making your mark

With estimates that crime can cost public sector organisations £1 million a week, property marking can be an effective deterrent whilst also ensuring that if a crime does occur, stolen property can be returned to its rightful owner or marking can provide evidence to convict a criminal.
    
The concept of property marking as an effective deterrent to thieves has been around for a long time and involves uniquely marking items using permanent marking. Approved forms of security marking include: stencil etching, forensic coding, microscopic dots, electronic transponders and security labels.
    
Traditionally, methods such as etching one’s postcode onto valuable items have been promoted to provide not only a deterrent to would be thieves but to allow the police to identify and return stolen goods. However, criminals have become more sophisticated in recent years and consequently property marking has had to keep pace. For example, marking systems that meet various approved standards now include the registering of marked items onto a secure database, enabling stolen property to be returned to its owner. One BSIA member has established a secure police approved database for cycles that are visibly marked with a permanent serial number, meaning bikes can be easily traced back to owners if stolen and recovered.

Technological advancements
Advances in marking systems, such as forensic marking, and increasing awareness of their value are giving a new focus on crime prevention, protecting not only places where property is kept but also rendering the property itself identifiable in court and therefore dangerous for thieves to possess. More importantly to organisations, they reduce both the risk and the cost of the crime.
    
The security industry’s efforts in championing the benefits of property marking have been recognised by government, including a leading role by the Home Office in promoting a high-tech marking scheme known as the Chipping of Goods initiative, an electronic tagging system designed to combat the illegal trade in stolen goods.
    
Under the scheme property at risk of theft carries unique information about its ownership, which is contained within the Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tag. This disrupts criminal networks that target consignments of goods as these goods are tracked through the supply chain from the point of despatch or manufacture.
    
Today’s innovative developments enable property to be marked with a unique combination of coded particles, modelled on the principles of human DNA. A liquid, which is invisible to the naked eye, can be ‘painted-on’ and is only visible under ultra-violet light. The fluid deters thieves as it contains a code that is unique and can link a thief to a crime scene, therefore providing vital evidence in court.

Marking in practice
The following case studies demonstrate just a few of the successes of property marking: One BSIA member used forensic property marking techniques at a school to reduce the amount of theft of IT equipment. A year later, they reported a 78 per cent reduction in school burglaries.
    
Another BSIA member worked on an initiative involving 2,000 homes and schools to property code laptops. After a break-in at one of the schools, thousands of pounds of laptop equipment was recovered and identified as belonging to the school because of the unique property coding.
    
Forensic marking can also be incorporated with sprays linked to intruder alarms, capable of marking thieves, as well as stolen property, with an identity code unique to each user and activating an alarm.
    
One BSIA member worked with a public sector organisation to tackle the rise of burglaries that were particularly targeting laptops, computers and multimedia projectors. After a year of installing the forensic marking system the organisation reported a 79 per cent reduction in the number of insurance claims for property and damage, and a reduction in burglaries by 71 per cent.
    
Another BSIA member installed a covert marking system in a public house that, upon activation, covered the intruder with forensic solution. The perpetrator was consequently arrested and sentenced to 4 1/2 years in prison.

Wide-ranging solutions
Police recovery centres hold a vast amount of recovered stolen items that cannot be returned to their rightful owners. The Police are often faced with a situation whereby they are forced to return the stolen property to a suspect because there is no way of identifying that it is definitely stolen. Property marking eliminates this problem allowing organisations to reduce the financial impact a burglary often has such as the replacement of property and insurance claims.
    
In addition to the safe return of lost property, different aspects of property marking are now demonstrating more wide-ranging applications. Through continued development of permanent marking technology and the maintenance of accurate databases with easy access for the police, property marking can render the widest possible range of stolen goods useless. More importantly, the link back to the owner acts as a potent deterrent by attacking the criminal’s fear of getting caught.
    
The BSIA Cash and Property Marking Section, comprising the industries leading suppliers, work to ensure continuous development of property marking technology and adhere to an international quality management standard EN ISO 9000:2000, providing a source of reliable, authoritative advice for companies and individuals who wish to reduce their vulnerability in this way.

The British Security Industry Association is the trade association covering all aspects of the professional security industry in the UK. Its 570 members provide over 70 per cent of UK security products and services and adhere to strict quality standards.

For more information
On the work of the section, visit www.bsia.co.uk/propertymarking .
To find a company who can provide property marking, visit www.bsia.co.uk/companyfinder .

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