The Problem of Theft

According to the FBI in 2005 there were 6.8 million reported larceny-thefts and this number comprised 2/3 of all property crime. The total reported violent crimes in 2005 were 1.3 million. The total reported property crimes were 10.1 million. In comparison property crime victimization was 10 times more likely than violent crime victimization.


 Why Mark Property

    The sale of goods and services, whether legitimate or illicit, are influenced by various factors. The idea that there is a market for everything is very true. Think of the items you desire. How hard do you work for them? The majority of stolen property is either sold or traded.  Some is kept for personal use. A factor a thief considers is how easy an item can be sold or traded.  Items that can be traced and identified as stolen donít sell so easy. Their ďstreet valueĒ decreases. Possessing or selling stolen property gets people in trouble and people donít want trouble.    

    Marked property that can be traced makes it easier for police to identify it. Of course, the motivated thief can remove any identifying markings.  Not only is this more effort but this will often damage the item.  This makes the item that much less valuable. 

    Marked property becomes more of a hassle and risk than it is worth. This is the conclusion you want the thief to come to.


How to Mark Property

    An etching pen or an electric engraver can be used to mark property. Most models are relatively inexpensive. Relatively large and durable items like radios, cameras, tools, DVD players and the like are ideal for etching or engraving.

    An alternative to the engraving pen is a UV pen (Ultraviolet Pen). The markings of this type of pen are visible with the naked eye. A black light or UV light is required to see the ink.

    Precious or delicate items like jewelry, antiques, artwork and heirlooms would not be items ideal for etching or engraving. A jeweler can make fine engravings for very small items like jewelry. An alternative to marking would be photographing the item and having it professionally appraised.

    Expensive clothing can be marked with a contrasting permanent magic marker. A UV (ultraviolet) pen would be ideal for these types of items.

    The marking being used can your name, date of birth, address or phone number. Your driverís license number is probably the best option. Make sure you have a state assigned driverís license or identification number. Never use your social security number.  This number is unique and confidential. Use the abbreviation of the state your driverís license was issued (for most it will be MA) followed by the license number.

    Mark the number on your property is this fashion:


               (Issuing state)         (License number)


    Most police officers would recognize this as being a Mass driverís license number. Any police officer coming across an item with this type of marking could quickly get the name assigned to it by checking it against the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) database.

    Massachusettsís driverís license holders are required to notify the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) if their address changes. So your address will be known as long as you keep your address current with the RMV and continue living in Massachusetts.  Police have access to out-of-state databases as well.

    The number should be placed in a conspicuous and permanent place. Donít mark an area that can be removed from the main part of the property. Try marking near the product serial number.  For clothing the marking could be placed on the inside label. You could also place a secondary marking in a location that is less obvious.


Property Inventory

    Make a list of all valuable property. Keep this record in a safe place and have a secondary copy available in the event of a theft.  Describe each item. Include any added identifying marks (like your driverís license number).

    An inventory is a record of what valuables you have so you will know what is missing if you are victimized.  Many burglary victims are unable to tell the responding officer what was taken.  Knowing what was stolen and having an excellent description of the property helps police investigate and track the property. Records will also help you with insurance claims.


Final Thoughts 

    Items like jewelry, cash, credit cards not used frequently, confidential documents (passport, birth certificate, etc.) should be kept in a safe. The safe should be bolted to the floor and/or wall. Donít put the safe in a bedroom or home office. Put it in an unusual place or have it hidden.

    Very valuable items should not be kept at home. Put these in a bank safe deposit box.

    Donít leave property in areas with easy access.  Always use some type of security device if you cannot keep your property in a secure area.

    Donít make it easy for someone to take what you worked hard for.

    Operation Identification will only work if you take the time to mark your property and make an inventory record. Police departments across the United States have property rooms loaded with recovered property. The owners are unknown and probably will never be known. Aside from the cost of an engraving tool Operation Identification is free.