Marking Time for Criminals by Michael Kemp

Behind closed boardroom doors, where of necessity, profit has priority, most companies move with insufficient commitment to outwit the thief’s next move. Under a welter of business pressures it is all too easy to believe that because the possible has not happened today it can be dealt with tomorrow.

There is, or certainly has been, a reluctance to accept Murphy’s Law, that if it can happen it will - to you. Countless companies, led by highly able management, have suffered burglary and theft as a result. Sufficient precautions were not taken in time, because time was not made available to counter the probable or, as Murphy would say, the inevitable.

Now it is different. Police, insurers, companies of every kind including producers of consumer products from cars to cornflakes, government and householders have wakened to the realisation that prevention is essential.  A fresh attitude of mind is focusing on Murphy’s Law and quickly gathering active support.

Cost is entering the equation, of course, but complacency is vanishing. The security industry, helped by a professional and Home Office encouragement, has got its house in order with meaningful standards structured by UK insurers and the British Security Industry Association.

From both organisations the standards are clear for security systems producers to adopt and for sensible buyers to observe. There are signs that the police, now drawing-up a national register of owner-identifying microchips and visual marking systems, will make it plain for buyers to decide where quality lies.

The move away from complacency can be demonstrated in Darlington. There, on a council estate of 1400 homes, burglary and theft was a nightly occurrence striking fear into the community, until County Durham Police tried a simple experiment.

They persuaded all 1400 households to have their most theft-prone possessions, TV, video, etc, permanently marked with the owner’s identity - a name and postcode, in accordance with Home Office guidelines.  Simultaneously they let it be known to burglars and suspected dealers in stolen property that anything stolen from the estate would be instantly identifiable and used as evidence to achieve a successful prosecution.

Similar projects have now been completed in 103 areas in Great Britain and the first in an overseas territory. All have been extremely successful in virtually eliminating theft.

ID chips will be hidden in every suitable purchase as a receipt is handed to the buyer.  The world’s first microchip multi-reader, little larger than a pocket ‘phone, that can ‘read’ virtually every known ‘chip’ is now ready.

We have already seen the new Chipping of Goods Initiative, which has resulted in the marine industry being the first project to develop a full programme whereby the chip is inputted with the HIN (hull identification number) and hidden in the structure of the craft, making it impossible to remove, but so easy to identify. The system has already been in operation for some years now in the caravan industry, which again identifies the VIN (vehicle identification number) on all windows of the caravan and, at the same time, chips are secreted away in order to give an ideal identification should the vehicle be stolen.

*A NEW master database of all owner-identifiable stolen property is now being considered by the police for stolen property being reported by companies and individuals and only consulted by the police and insurers, for further reference. Its advantages are clear. It is one-stop information that might clinch a conviction and quick research for insurers making claims inquiries.

*BAR CODES could soon be barred in favour of microchips in the transport of valuable packages, because tiny ‘chips are all but invisible, effectively damage-proof, and they can be invisibly ‘read’.

*CHIPMARK is a new ID protection for computer microchips. If a thief tried to remove a Chipmarked RAM no-one would buy it, so there is no point in attempting to take it. Signs on a computer announce that its internal parts are protected.

*CHELSEA CLIP is a product to deter handbag theft. The new Crime & Disorder Act states that establishments have a duty to protect the property of their customers. With this in mind, the Chelsea Clip, which was developed by two crime prevention officers, is now being installed in many of the fast-food chains, wine bars and public houses. It is a simple Clip which allows a handbag to be clipped on so that it cannot be snatched, bearing in mind that some one million handbags are stolen each year.

*MOTOR manufacturers are looking at the idea of hiding a microchip ID of the buyer in new models and then progressively adding dates and mileages at every service, maintenance, and recall to create an on-board electronic logbook.

Simultaneously car buyers would be able to hide their own uniquely programmed ‘chips as an extra piece of ID that no thief would ever be likely to find.

*PIN NUMBERS are under attack from biometrics, the electronic scanning of finger prints, eyes, hand geometry and facial characteristics.

These are unique in each of us and cannot be copied or defrauded. Biometric physical access applications are worth around £65million a year, according to US banks now conducting trials.

The British Security Industry Association, National Approval Council for Security Systems, and Confederation of European Security Services are now working together to perfect standards of technical excellence and marketing quality that can be adopted throughout the EU in harmony with legislation.

This has to happen quickly so that buyers know how to select the best for their needs at affordable prices. To achieve this all security companies need to have BSIA accreditation to demonstrate their commitment to minimum standards and adherence to a code of practice and, at the same time, have their products tested to LPCB standards.

I sincerely hope that the police list now being compiled in Britain will make the firms which lack professional backing obvious by their absence.


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