Encrypted microparticles to help cut burglary

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Encrypted microparticles to help cut burglary

Hertfordshire Constabulary is piloting a new scheme that uses encrypted microparticles to 'mark' home owners' assets so that they can easily be identified in the event of theft.

The enigmaTag scheme is the result of collaboration between Hertfordshire Constabulary and technology companies RedWeb Security, a specialist in DNA-based crime prevention solutions, and asset management specialists MyThings.

Participants in the scheme are provided with a bottle of fluid containing encrypted microparticles, which are difficult to break or replicate, and will be asked to paint a tiny amount onto valuable belongings, such as computers, digital cameras, jewellery and antiques.

They will also register details of the marked belongings in a 'portfolio' set up for each participating household on the MyThings website.

In case of theft or loss, details of the items will be easier to report to the police and insurance companies. It will also be easier to identify and recover stolen property, as the descriptions, serial numbers and images of the items are all held in the participant's anonymous and secure portfolio.

MyThings and Hertfordshire Constabulary have also created a special page for North Watford householders taking part in the trial.

"It's a really simple scheme for householders to participate in and has the potential to offer major benefits in terms of burglary prevention," said Principal Scenes of Crime Officer, Doug Bain, who has managed the enigmaTag trial in North Watford.

"Our pilot is the first implementation of its kind in the UK and we've worked with the product owners to evolve an evidential system that will assist us in realising what we hope will be a significant reduction in burglaries in the trial area as a direct result."

Similar invisible paints that show up under UV light are already on the market, but none contain the particles that would allow police to identify to whom the items belong.

The enigmaTag fluid in each bottle has its own unique code and each code will be registered on a central owners' database held by the police.

Handheld scanners will enable them to identify the code stored in the microparticles and compare it with the details in the MyThings portfolio.

They will also be able to investigate when items with different codes are found in a property being searched by the police.

"Every burglary has a victim and we're committed to utilise technological advances to catch those people responsible for stealing people's personal possessions and invading their homes," said Hertfordshire chief constable Frank Whiteley.

"We’re also working closely with the Watford Community Safety Partnership to reduce the number of burglaries. But we need your help to prevent them happening in the first place."

As well as the enigmaTag bottle participants will also receive 'Thieves Beware' stickers to put on their doors and windows as a warning to potential burglars.

Similar schemes have already been implemented successfully in the US.
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