Marking time! A guide to forensic property marking

Undoubtedly your property means a lot to you. The last thing you want is to have the property stolen and perhaps even more, the anguish of not being able to recover and restore it back to you because it can’t be identified as being yours! When property is marked by whatever means, it makes it instantly identifiable, particularly if the marking can be linked to your nominal details and/or your property address.

The key benefit to property marking is it makes it easier for the police to recover your property. Moreover, if you publicise that your property is marked by displaying signs and window/door stickers, it acts as a significant deterrent to would-be thieves. Criminals know that traceable property is harder to pass on, and increases the likelihood of securing evidence that can lead to criminal prosecutions. The simple fact is criminals are more likely to target elsewhere rather than taking the risk of being caught out.

There are various ways to mark your property. A simple and relatively inexpensive way is to use a UV pen to write your name and postcode on the item. However, what happens if you decide to move address? Furthermore, UV markings fade over time and can therefore become ineffective.

Etching or engraving your property is a more overt marking system but this may deface or damage your property, reducing both its appearance and value.

Thankfully through the innovation of science and technology, there is now a range of property marking products that offer customers the ability to permanently mark property with identifiable features that are linked to a secure registered database. 

The ability to enable marked property to be traced back to the legal owner is the ‘best practice’ standards advocated by insurers, police and Secured By Design, the official police security initiative with the specific aim to reduce crime and help people live more safely by recommending products and systems that meet SBD security requirements.

The most effective way to mark valuable items is by DNA, microdot and chemical marking.  The key advantage to using these products is their versatility; they are quick and easy to permanently apply to almost anything with the added bonus of not causing any damage. However, if these products are also to serve as a meaningful deterrent the user will need to use any accompanying signage and tamper-proof stickers.

So, let’s look at each of these type of property markings in more detail:

Microdot property marketing

Microdots are small discs suspended in an adhesive solution containing a dye that shows under UV lighting. The solution can be applied to surfaces with a brush. Each microdot has its own unique code and database contact telephone number printed on it. The dots are just about visible to the naked eye but the data contained within the dots can only be seen via microscope. If a stolen item is recovered, the dots can be viewed to ascertain owner details via the secure database.

DNA property marking

Synthetic DNA is used in a variety of property marking substances, each of which carries a tracer dye that is visible under UV light. Subsequently the tracer dye can transfer to an offender, and if an offender is arrested in possession of property both the person and property can be checked under a UV light. Each DNA substance is uniquely registered to an individual address, which means the offender can be evidentially linked to the scene of the crime. Synthetic DNA is used in water-based adhesives that can be painted onto individual surfaces or deployed via a water-based spray device that reacts to alarms and/or motion sensors. It is also versatile enough to be added to grease (for down piping and roof spaces) or gel (for applying to indoor surfaces such as windowsills, door handles, cash tills or other valuable items such as safes, display cabinets etc). 

Chemical property marking

Chemical property marking systems work in a similar way to DNA marking, instead using inert chemical compounds rather than synthetic DNA. Each product batch is unique and includes a dye that is traceable under UV light.

Lastly, there is another traceable property marking system called RFID property tagging.

RFID transponder chips with a unique ID code are hidden on valuable items. The RFID chips can be read by scanners used by the police when they recover suspected stolen property. This type of property marking is usually associated with construction plant machinery, vehicles, sports equipment, and antiques. RFID chips are also commonly used on goods within retail stores by setting off alarms if goods are taken out of the building without the tag being deactivated.

To learn more about property marking and the types of security products available, click here.

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