Property marking

Officer security marking a mobile phone

Property Marking

There are many ways to mark your property that will make it harder for a thief to sell on and easier for the Police to recover and trace the lawful owner.

The top recommended methods are:

  • Using a police approved forensic marking system.
  • Registering your valuables free of charge using the Immobilise or BikeRegister property databases.
  • Taking Photographs and keeping documents relating to your property.
  • Etching either by engraving or using a chemical kit.
  • Marking your property using a permanent marker / paint or UV pen.

If in any doubt seek expert advice when considering marking valuable items such as art and antiques to see that you are choosing a suitable product that will not damage or devalue your item.

Forensic Marking

Forensic property marking solution is similar in concept to DNA. The solution, which is water based, is simply painted onto any item of property and left for a few minutes to dry.  Each bottle contains a unique
chemical DNA "barcode" that is registered on a secure database. When dry the fluid is waterproof and resistant to deterioration.  It is only detectable when it glows under UV light.  This makes it easy for police to test and identify any item marked.  The police can then establish who is the rightful owner.

The Metropolitan Police Service is currently running MetTrace in partnership with Smartwater®, an anti-burglary operation that will see officers distributing free forensic marking kits and crime prevention advice to 440,000 homes in London over three years. For more information please see MetTrace link.

There are also other forensic marking solutions available on the market. For more information visit the Secured by Design website - see related link.


Immobilise and BikeRegister are a free property registers that allow anyone to register their valuables such as electronic devices, mobile phones and cycles on a secure website. If the police recover the item they can check this database against the visible serial number on the property and establish the rightful owner.

Further information can be obtained on the Immobilise website - see related link.

Pedal cycles can be registered for free with their unique frame numbers and other details with BikeRegister - see related link.

Photographs and Documents

Taking photographs of your most valuable items such as jewellery, paintings or antiques is very effective particularly if it is unique or has any distinguishing characteristics.

For the best results:

  • Use a non-reflective background
  • Put a ruler next to the item to provide a sense of scale
  • Make sure there is enough light
  • Make sure the object is in focus
  • Keep the pictures in a safe place and separately from object
  • Consider storing a second copy of the pictures with a trusted friend or relative.

Documents kept safe also prove that the property is yours and usually will have unique serial numbers or receipts which can aid in making an insurance claim or having your property returned to you.


Some property can be physically etched or engraved with the rightful owners details or postcode. This method is sometimes used on vehicles which have their registration number etched onto the windows.

There are some chemical etching kits which can be used for cycles, motorbikes and vehicles to mark exhaust or other components but it is best to seek specialist advice if you are considering this option.

Marking with a UV pen / paint

UV marker pens can be used to mark your property with your postcode, house number or your name. They use an invisible ink that is only visible under UV lighting, this can help police to identify and return stolen property. 

Another option is to simply use paint or a permanent marker on items such as tools.