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Operation Limestone: Sussex Police have recovered equestrian equipment, garden furniture and garden ornaments from a location near to the Sussex, and Surrey borders. Is any of it yours?
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Marking Principles

There are two distinct purposes for any form of property marking. These are to make the marked property IDENTIFIABLE or RECOVERABLE. The best idea is therefore to choose a method which achieves BOTH without affecting the value of the property.

A further consideration is: What you would do if you were to move home? The mark chosen and the method of application should therefore stand a high chance of tracking you through subsequent house ownerships.

Many types of property are already marked with both standard and unique markings. Standard markings are those which denote a model or type. Those which are unique are usually set by the manufacturer or supplier. Examples would be VIN (Vehicle Identification Numbers) on motor vehicles, or serial numbers on electrical goods.

From the moment property is made, it is marked, sometimes uniquely, sometimes as one of several thousand in a production run. However once it goes into use it will acquire marking in the form of damage. Every scratch, dent or blemish makes property unique. It makes it identifiable but not tracable.

Marks on property help provide evidence of ownership. This is important to you, the Police and insurers, especially if the ownership of that property is disputed.

Is it worth marking your property ? This is a question only you can answer, but in doing so consider the financial and emotional consequences of losing it an not getting it back.

Surrey Police, like all forces in England and Wales do not recommend products, we recommend principles. For some the principles mentioned here there may be several products, but for others only one or two. The choice of which to select is for you to decide. Some guidance is available in the Products & Services section of Virtual Bumblebee.

What you mark must be unique. The most common protocol is to use the postcode. This is universally recognised world-wide, and is the best single process. Many companies offer unique numbering processes supported by a database. These may be efficient but they rely to some extent on the finder recognising the marking and being able to locate, and contact the database. Recognising that companies do go out of business, sell information to others and become the victim of burglary and theft themselves, you should satisfy yourself that any such database is secure and viable in the long term.

Property marking is best done using two methods, one overt (obvious) and the other covert (secret). These should also be supported by a visible warning, to deter theft in the first place. This may be a sticker or label, which is used to alert the finder of the existence of markings should be permanent.

Here are the most common methods :

Descriptions

Obvious but often overlooked. Detail is essential whether describing an item of jewellery or a person. Items of high value should be supported by an expert or technical description. The description should include the provenance ie where it was bought / aquired, just incase a previous owner knocks on YOUR door claiming the item.

Recording your property detail provides further evidence of ownership when you come to make your insurance claim, it also helps the Police to circulate the property. Surrey Police have a wide range of circulation options, but none of these can work without the information.

Engraving

This is an effective and permanent form of marking. It can be achieved in a number of ways, using acid, a hard tipped scratching tool, or an engraving tool. Whist it can be removed with deep grinding, such removal marks can cause property officers and Police officers to become more suspicious and seek scientific mean to identify the property.

It can be used on china or glass, but the effect on the value of the piece should be considered. It is most effective when coupled with at least one other form of overt or covert marking. Protection is enhanced the more methods that are applied.

Engrave your postcode and the first two numbers of the house or business or the first two name letters.

Painting

Paint is an effective form of property marking and is often used in the building trade. Usually an overt marking system, it is most effective if one colour from one tin is used for all items. This is because, they can then be scientifically matched to the original tin and this provides continuity of evidence from the loser to the thief. Florescent paint can make ownership more obvious and reduce the resale value of the item, thus reducing the likelihood of theft and/or adding to the risk of storage and disposal.

Paint your postcode and the first two numbers of the house or business or the first two name letters.

Photographing

Photographs allow property to be circulated to the press, trade and public. They provide information to the insurance company and enable you to gain the full value for your loss but once recovered, the next problem is proving ownership. Take as many photos as you can. Any item should be photographed against a scale. This can be marked on a card but must be distinct. We use greyscale rulers.

Remember you can save money by not having the pictures developed, provided you keep the film in the fridge. If your camera can date stamp the picture, use it. Take close ups of markings and damage.

This is particularly beneficial for jewellery and garden ornaments.

Videoing

This is excellent for all but the most valuable items. Take a video of every room of your home, inside and out. It will provide evidence of the condition of your property and will be very valuable in the event of ANY insurance claim. An added bonus is the fact that you can do a talk over. Video your animals and your boundaries in case of disputes.

For volume a video camera is an option many people do not consider. This is such a good idea, Surrey Police have produced a video on the subject called 'The Three R's'. It is available at main Police Stations for no cost. Just speak to the crime prevention officer or e mail him/her. Better still, video a person marking your own property. Keep the video in a safe (different) place.

Stamping

Useful for metals and particularly bicycles, this involves the use of numbered and lettered metal stamps. Hitting them with a hammer makes a mark in the metal. On bicycles, be careful that the metal is strong enough and will not crack (racing cycles). If you fear this, use engraving or painting instead.

Micro dots

A relatively new form of marking for use in the home, office and vehicles, quantities can be purchased that can be scattered liberally and works on the basis that an offender would neither wish nor be able to clean and remove all of them. They must be used in conjunction with visible stickers, as property officers must be alerted to look for them.

Chemical/DNA

Some companies now produce a harmless liquid which is unique and identifiable to the
original registered purchaser. It is applied in very small quantities to different points on the items and will show up under ultra violet light. A useful idea, particularly with antiques and high value items.

Recording

A verbal description made on a tape recorder is a cheap and quick option. Talk about each object in turn, its size, weight, markings and composition.

UV Pen.

These are commonly used and popular as they mark without affecting the value or aesthetics of the property. They are cheap and available from most hardware shops. Property should be re marked every two years as the marks can fade. The life of the mark can be extended with a clear coating of laquer, but you would have to experiment.

Every property officer in the country has ready access to a UV light source. Mark your postcode followed by the first three numbers or letters of your house name, as the same postcode applies to ten or more premises .


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