Property Marking Statement – ACPO and the Home Office


Property marking statement

Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) Property Tracking
Group/Home Office

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

Asset Marking Devices and Registration Databases

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)

The full titles of the two LPS standards

Full specifications may be obtained from
the Loss Prevention Certification Board, BRE, Garston,
Hertfordshire, WD25 9XX or in pr�cis form at the end of
this document.

The police circulated a layman’s guide
to the type of products on offer and the terms used
under the following broad headings:

1. Visible / Overt

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.


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.


Using one of the above methods to mark the owners’ postcode
suffixed by the number of the premises or initial letters of the company
or house name to cater for
multiple address postcodes.

Bar codes

Linear bar codes to international recognised standards
that divulge
information when read by a bar-code scanner. The code must be secure and
does require a specialist scanner to enable the code to
be read.

2. Covert

Radio frequency identification tags (RF/id)

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. Tags may be embedded in plastics
or wood or surface mounted on metals. They are 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.
Information could include that of RF/id tags in
proximity to the device.

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.


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 the PIN is correctly entered via a
keypad and which identifies the owner.

3. Serial numbers & database registers

Registration databases

Commercial operations which register a customer’s 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

Manufacturers or third-party companies hole these to record
ownership and warrantee details of the first and occasionally subsequent

Photographic databases

Hard-copy or computer held photographic records with 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 to 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 and which could be used to relate
property to specific owners. The fact that they require
specialist equipment or knowledge tend to their inclusion in the covert

  • Biometrics. The use of biological data related to the owner
    – such as DNA, facial analysis, retina recognition.

  • Optical memory. CD ROM digital technology to hold

  • Fingerprint. Use of personal fingerprint identification
    linked to database.

General information

Unless the asset marking device 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.

Such databases must operate to the highest standards
and operators should be able to answer the reasonable

  • Is the information held securely and kept up-to-date?

  • What standards does the company meet? For example LPS 1224 and
    LPS 1225.

  • What is the company track record and how long has it been

  • How does anyone know how to quickly contact the correct
    register holding the data?

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

An area yet for development is the Single Gateway
. This means that instead of the police
having perhaps 30 telephone numbers for a variety of
registration databases, there should be a single number
or a very limited set of numbers and by providing
details from the recovered asset marking device they
could be directed into the correct database.

Radio frequency tag (RF/id) scanners are being offered to the police
service. The scanners offered do not
read all tags and in some cases do not have a realistic range for crime
detection purposes. The current ACPO position has been to,

  1. Decline to accept
    the scanners until the companies accept the principle of �open systems�
    and provide a scanner able to read the majority of tags at a reasonable range.

  2. Support the Home Office Chipping of Goods project.
    This is a partnership project with industry to
    develop efficient use of RF/id, principally in the
    manufacture, supply and warehousing chain. This
    project will be subject of a separate Source UK
    article in the near future.

ACPO has also been asked to endorse Internet based property
registration systems. This has been resisted whilst security issues have
been addressed, that LPCB standards are extended to include Internet
based systems and there is sufficient access to Internet
by operational police officers to make
police use of these systems viable. At present, the public is likely to gain an
unrealistic expectation that the Internet medium is being used widely by the police service to identify property.


Asset marking is a significant security feature from
local Neighbourhood Watch to multi-national corporations
and whilst the scale and technology may vary there is an
overall expectation that the methods employed will work
and be cost effective in loss reduction.

Faced with rising property crime and the
opportunities posed by living standards and the
portability of modern technology, the police and
security personnel require systems that are effective
with readily accessible data. The logical conclusions

  • Asset marking and registration is necessary.

  • Development of technology to keep a step ahead of
    the criminal so enhancing the chance of recovery and
    identification is desirable.

  • Standards to ensure confidence in products and
    efficiency in use are essential.

ACPO Crime Prevention Initiatives and Secured by
Design support these principles.

Further information is available from:

ACPO Crime Prevention Initiatives
25 Victoria Street
London SW1H 0EX
Tel: 020 7227 3423
Email: [email protected]

Date modified: 16 August 2002
Review date: March 2003
Originator: ACPO Crime Prevention Initiativ

Last update: 08/09/03

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