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NPCC Statement

National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC)

The NPCC 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.

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 are:

LPS 1224:issue 2 1999 Requirements for secure database management for use in asset marking systems

LPS 1225:issue 3 1999 Specifications for testing and classification of asset marking systems

Full specifications may be obtained from the Loss Prevention Certification Board, BRE, Garston, Hertfordshire, WD25 9XX or in précis 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.

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 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.

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

3. Serial numbers & database register 

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 owners.

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 category.

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 information.

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 questions:

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 trading?

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 product.

An area yet for development is the Single Gateway principle. 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 NPCC position has been to,

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.


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.

NPCC 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.

Conclusions 

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 are:



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.



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

Further information is available from:

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