The ACPO Sub-Committee on Crime & Disorder Reduction and the Action Against Crime & Disorder Unit of the Home Office have agreed the following statement to update the concept of property marking and identification.
To assist in the prevention and detection of crime and the return of stolen property to the rightful owner, property should be marked by a method which is secure, visible and leads to the identity of the owner. In simple form an engraved postcode will suffice. Where a covert commercial product is used it should identify the owner and be supported with a secure and visible mark which leads the recovering agency to search for the product.
The police service does not test products and to avoid suggestions of product endorsement companies offering asset marking devices and private property registers or databases should be directed to comply with Loss Prevention Certification Board standards LPS 1224 and LPS 1225. (see General Information)
We refer to these collectively as asset marking devices and registration databases. They can be listed under the following categories:
Engraving & chemical etching. Vigorous marking of an item by machine or chemicals to the extent that removal involves disfigurement of the item. Information may be that of the owner or a serial number and supporting data which can used to check ownership
Labels. A range of plates, labels and stickers glued or chemically bonded to the item. They should contain sufficient information to identify the owner or the register where such details are held. They may also comprise hologram and anti-counterfeiting technology.
Post-coding. Using one of the above two methods to mark the owners postcode suffixed by the number of the premises or initial letters to cater for multiple address postcodes. e.g. 5, High St., Lewes BN7 2DZ would be BN7 2DZ 5, whilst the adjoining Rose Cottage, High St., Lewes BN7 2DZ would be BN7 2DZ RC.
Bar codes. Linear bar codes to international recognised standards
which divulge information when read by a bar-code scanner.
Radio frequency identification tags. The implanting of a small device containing an aerial and a microchip containing information. A scanning device uses radio waves to read the information contained within the tag. These may be embedded in plastics, wood or surface mounted on metals. Also used in animal tagging.
Radio frequency read/write tags. Similar to previous item except that quantities of information can be included in the tag memory, new information added or information deleted over a period of time using a read/write scanner.
Tracking devices. Devices which either locate themselves by reference to aerials or satellites and transmit the information or which transmit a fixed code which is detected by scanners and cross bearings to fix the position.
Chemical trace. The use of unique chemical compounds, registered to a particular owner and painted onto items. Forensic examination identifies the chemical code and thus the owner.
Micro-marking. Microscopic dots or marking bearing code numbers or specific details of the owner. When applied to an item are virtually invisible to the naked eye and usually require examination under a microscope.
PIN code. The secure inclusion of a PIN (Personal Identification Number) within the electrical circuit of an item or a security device attached to it, which inhibits the function of the item until correctly entered via a keypad and which identifies the owner.
Registration databases. Commercial operations which register a customers property against serial or code numbers, or register stolen property. Registers may be item specific (caravans, computers, plant) business specific (all assets for a particular company or local authority) or general (home or commercial insurance cover).
Manufacturer serial number and warrantee databases. These are held by manufacturers or third-party companies to record ownership and warrantee details of the first and occasionally subsequent owners.
Photographic databases. Hard-copy or computer held photographic records and owner details of works of art, antiques or other valuables. Ideal for items which are not suitable for any of the other methods due to the value and potential damage of the item.
The list is not exhaustive as new technology is regularly being developed for security purposes. The following types of unique identification method are available/under development and which could be added to either overt or covert categories. The fact that they require specialist equipment or knowledge tend to their inclusion in the covert category.
Biometrics. The use of biological data related to the owner - such as DNA, facial analysis.
Optical memory. CD ROM digital technology to hold information.
Fingerprint. Use of personal fingerprint identification linked to database.
Unless the device used actually has the owners name and address and/or telephone number or it is a modified postcode, it must also rely on the use of a commercial database register which will marry up the serial number with the owner details.
To date our experience is that, whilst there are some well established registers, a number of problems occur: Is the information secure and updated? What happens to the data if the database operator ceases to trade? Which database is to be checked? For example, a recovered computer could recorded be within a database set up for computer users, or one for home contents policies, or office equipment or the manufacturers warrantee scheme. The device and the information it bears must therefore lead directly to the correct register and provide sufficient information to identify the particular item with the owner.
Overt devices must be securely affixed to withstand a reasonable attack. Covert devices must be supported by visible marks so as to provide the police or other agency sufficient information to enable them to carry out a further inspection for the particular covert product. ACPO has engaged the support of the Association of British Insurers (ABI) and as a result the Loss Prevention Certification Board, a standards and testing authority, has produced Standards as follows.
LPS 1224: Requirements for secure database management for use in asset marking systems.
LPS 1225: Specifications for asset marking devices.
It is envisaged that the insurers and police will direct the public and the device manufacturers towards these standards.
An area for development and which is included in the LPS 1224, is the Single Gateway principle. This means that instead of the police having perhaps 30 telephone numbers for a variety of product databases, companies should form a small number of alliances where the police would phone a single number bureau or a very limited set of numbers and by giving details from the recovered device be directed to the correct database, or have the information researched by the bureau.
Some companies seek access to police communications with a view to offering this service. Whilst such a facility has attractions, it should be transparent in that the facility is not given to a single company.
Tracking systems for vehicles are the subject of proposals for a European Standard under CEN278 (Road Transport & Traffic Telematics) WG14 After Theft Systems for Vehicle Recovery (ATSVR). The UK Convenor is the secretary to ACPO Property Tracking Group. The ACPO position is to support the introduction of tracking devices (as opposed to individual products) which are proven to work and do not place an unrealistic burden on the police.
Radio frequency tag scanners are being offered to the police service. Currently, the scanners offered will not read all tags and in some cases do not have a realistic range for crime detection purposes. The current ACPO position is to decline to accept the scanners until the companies accept the principle of "open systems" and provide a scanner able to read all tags at a reasonable range.
ACPO has also been asked to endorse Internet based property registration systems. This has been declined until security issues have been addressed, the LPCB standards are extended to include Internet based systems and there is sufficient access to Internet by operational officers within police forces to make police use viable. At present, the public are likely to gain an unrealistic expectation of the Internet medium being used by the police service generally to identify property. (Jan 2001)