New toys for Christmas? Break out the UV marker.

There’s nothing worse that could happen to your new toys than having them stolen. Even if they’re insured, I’d wager you’d be quite happy to give the thief a good punch in the face, or at least have the satisfaction of them getting locked up.

Well, while I can’t help with the first one (as much as I’d like to), I can offer some advice with helping the second come to pass.

Break out the UV marker pens

Most people have been told to do this at some point, but only a fraction actually do it. However, Police always check property they seize from suspects for UV markings. Many forces issue UV keyrings to officers so they can even perform these checks on the street.

The recommended marking is to use your house number and postcode, i.e. 75 EX2 7TG, but if you move around a lot you may want to use something less transient. Any marking is better than none. You can buy UV pens from most stationers. I’ve also used Crime Prevention Products for various security products in the past and their UV pens are pretty good. You should also be able to snag one from your local Neighbourhood Watch* co-ordinator.

My tips for UV marking:

  • Even the best pens will fade or wear off over time. Pick somewhere to put the marking that will be easy to spot with a UV lamp, but that isn’t handled regularly.
  • Make a second marking inside the battery compartment or other recess, just in case.
  • Leave the ink to dry for at least an hour after marking to ensure it dries without smudging.

Register your stuff at Immobilise.com

Chances are that the manufacturer told you to register your new toys with them for benefits that are next to worthless. Much more valuable is registering with Immobilise.com.

This is a free service, endorsed by Police and the Home Office, that allows you to register your various gadgets on the  National Mobile Property Register, which is used by Police to try and identify property they suspect of being stolen. Government data has shown that hit rates on the NMPR can be over 20%, and last year the Home Office made funding available to link the NMPR directly to the Police National Computer (source).

Immobilise offer other paid services and products, but their most valuable service is free, and that’s getting the data onto the system. Even if your stuff isn’t nicked, it serves as a handy repository of serial numbers and photographs for when you ham-fistedly drop your phone under a train or leave it in the pub, and need to claim for loss or damage on the insurance.

Does it really make a difference?

The chances are that by this point in your life you have lost or had something of yours stolen, never to be seen again. I know I have. As a result, you might think from that experience that the odds of you ever getting anything back is pretty slim. However, I have friends and colleagues in various Police forces and am involved with crime reductions efforts in my local area. Everyone I talk to in the Police says these efforts do make a difference.

I was once told a story from my area of two dodgy looking blokes who were arrested one day carrying a big-screen TV down the road in the small hours. Officers were convinced it was stolen, but couldn’t prove it. Not only did the two go free, but the Police had to give them the TV back, which annoyed the hell out of them. Just having a single UV marking on the TV that the suspects could not account for would have kept them in the nick.

* Not got a Neighbourhood Watch in your area? Call your local police force and ask about setting one up. I can say from experience it doesn’t take up much time.

About The Angry Technician

The Angry Technician is an experienced IT professional in the UK education sector. Normally found in various states of annoyance on his blog. All views are those of his imaginary pet dog, Howard.

One response to “New toys for Christmas? Break out the UV marker.”

  1. Dale says :

    Our Neighbourhood Watch folks used to recommend etching your license number in things. After reading your post, I asked them what they now recommend.
    “UV Marking, but etching is still ok.”.

    Speaking with Insurance Assessors over the years, the most important thing they like to see is original product owner manuals. Their thinking is that if you’ve got the manual for the $4000 plasma TV, then it’s likely you DID have one stolen. As opposed to trying to commit insurance fraud.