The Crime Prevention Website


Property marking was one of the main objectives for Neighbourhood Watch and Home Watch schemes in the early 1980s.  In spite of valiant efforts by the coordinators of these schemes and the police, research by the Institute of Criminology at Cambridge at the time found that only about 5% had actually marked any property or intended to do so.  I would guess that this figure now stands at around 15% or more thanks to some excellent innovations in the methods that we can now use to mark things and the many proactive property marking projects conducted by the police in partnership with manufacturers of the various marking products.

Marking property in a way that makes it identifiable to you and or your address is not simply about being able to recover it should it be stolen.  By making the effort to mark just some of your property, by whatever method, you will be helping the police arrest the thieves and solve the crime and indirectly you’ll be helping the people in your local community who may also have been victims of the same thief. 

Conversely, if the property is not marked the police can end up having to give the property back to the guy they know stole it and take it from me, that’s not nice!

It’s very difficult to for me to emphasise just how important this subject is, but I can tell you that the prosecutions of some very serious crimes and the outcomes of major trials have hinged on the police’s ability to link property to the scene of a crime and a victim.

Here are  some  of the many reason why you should mark at least some of your property:

  • May deter the thief from breaking into your home (if he sees the warning signs on the door)
  • May deter the thief from stealing the treasured items of property even if he’s broken in
  • The thief risks being arrested after the event if caught in possession of identifiable property
  • Makes it more difficult for the thief to sell the property on
  • Provides the police with evidence that connects the criminal to the scene of the crime
  • Improves the chances that the police or Crown Prosecution Service will prosecute the thief
  • Improves the chances that something you value will be returned
  • The marks may be noticed by someone browsing in a second hand shop or at a car boot sale  who then calls the police  

True story

I was with a colleague right outside Acton police station when we stopped a known burglar who was riding a fairly new bicycle along the footpath (in a dangerous manner of course!) We turned the bike over, just in case there was a postcode *  stamped under the crank and, Bingo!  Straight away we knew that the postcode was not this guy’s address, so he was duly nicked and walked into the police station with the bike.  When we searched him we found credit cards and jewellery at which point he said “it’s a fair cop guv, I’ll come quietly” or words to that effect.  I called up a colleague and asked him to go to the address our thief had burgled to make it secure while we dealt with the prisoner (or should I call him ‘the person detained’).  Imagine my colleague’s surprise when a second burglar, unconnected with the first, climbed out of a side window of the burgled house carrying a VCR.  Two for the price of one!

* In the case of the true story above, hardly any police forces stamp bikes these days as Chief Constables got fed up with paying out for new bikes when the die stamps did more damage to the bikes than they were meant to!  Instead, I recommend you use a marking system that is certificated to LPS 1225: Issue 3.1   Requirements for the LPCB Approvals and Listing of Asset Marking Systems (See  Standards for property marking products and services  

Limitations of postcoding

You will probably know that the police and the Home Office used to encourage you to mark your property with your postcode and house number.  However, there are limitations with this method of marking because:

  • People moving house often don’t re-mark their property with the new postcode
  • Post coding doesn’t successfully cater for products that are later sold as ownership is difficult to prove if the new owner doesn’t re-mark the property
  • Post coding is not useful for businesses who rent out property or whose property moves from one site to another, such as plant and other machinery and tools
  • Post coding is not suitable for very small items of property or for many antiques
  • New methods of marking using unique codes and database registers have been developed that overcome the limitations of the postcode 

As a consequence of the limitations of post coding the Loss Prevention Certification Board (LPCB), with the support of the police, government and insurers, published standards for property (asset) marking systems and secure databases upon which you can register your marked property.  The police also acknowledge other standards and assessment criteria, which are listed on the next page. (See  Standards for property marking products and services )