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Veridot News: The Mercury Tiniest Fighter Against Crime Article 4


Tiniest fighter against crime

Microdot technology has proved extremely effective in prevention of theft and recovery of vehicles, writes Cheryl Goodenough Technology that assists in identifying assets, including car parts, is increasingly gaining popularity as a crime-fighting tool in South Africa. Microdotting involves spraying assets with thousands of minute dots that contain a unique identification number. It is practically impossible for all the micro-particles to be removed because there are so many of them.

Microdot technology, pioneered in Australia, has already proven highly effective in cutting down vehicle theft. When applied to vehicles, about 10 000 small dots that contain the vehicle identification number (Vin) or a personal identification number (Pin) are sprayed on to the cars. The Vin is sprayed on when the microdots are applied at the factory; the Pin is used when the vehicles are marked after having left the factory, according to Business Against Crime Project Manager Lorinda Nel. The dots are manufactured via a patented process and are virtually impossible to counterfeit. By the end of March, the technology had been applied to more than 123 000 vehicles in South Africa.

These included vehicles imported and manufactured by Nissan SA from October last year, Toyota Quantum vehicles from March 2005, vehicles purchased by the SAPS as from April 2006, vehicles from the insurer Clarendon Transport Underwriters and those microdotted at the request of vehicle rental companies, primarily Avis. Microdotting is also available at various fitment centres throughout the country. "Although the main function of microdot technology is to improve the ability to identify vehicles, statistics indicate that it is a deterrent for hijackings and motor vehicle theft," said Nel. According to Business Against Crime, several sources attest to the success of the technology: international statistics indicate that microdot technology leads to a decrease of between 50% and 60% in the number of stolen and hijacked vehicles, and an improvement of more than 55% in recoveries. Car rental company Avis and Clarendon Transport Underwriters have reported a drop of more than 52% in vehicle theft and an increase of 87% in the recovery rate.

BAC also found that the recovery rate of the Toyota Quantum was 91%, compared to 52% for other models in this class that were not microdotted. Nel said investigations had proved that in almost all serious vehicle-related crimes and in many road traffic offences, identifiers such as licence number, Vin and engine number had been altered or removed to conceal the crime or identity of the wrongdoer. "Most manufacturers have made a big effort to make their cars difficult to steal. The important next step is to make it more difficult for criminals to sell the stolen or hijacked cars," said Nel. "The biggest problem we have regarding hijacking and vehicle theft is the ability to identify the vehicle," Nel said. "It is very simple to alter the identity of a vehicle, especially when it is an older model." When parts of a vehicle are separated, which often happens after theft, they cannot be traced back to the original vehicle. Microdotting of vehicles involves the marking of different areas on the vehicle. Nel said that microdotting vehicles would assist in identifying them, even if they were taken to a chop shop, or to an environment where they were dismantled for parts. Even if the dots fell off in a chop shop, it was possible to prove that the vehicle was on those premises, said Nel. This enhances our ability to fight vehicle crime."

The vehicle identification and vehicle safeguarding units of the police have already been trained in microdotting technology, and provided with a UV light and small battery operated microscope to identify the microdots. The light detects the adhesive used to attach the dots, while the microscope is used to read the numbers on the dots. In addition, Nel said, the training of police members from all stations in Gauteng was under way. "We hope to be able to take this training to KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape quite soon," she said. Business Against Crime (BAC) SA, together with other roleplayers, is involved in a project to develop standards that will apply for both South Africa and internationally, regarding aspects such as microdot manufacturing and the characteristics of the glue that attaches the dots to the asset concerned. Nel hoped that South Africa would reach a point where all vehicles were microdotted.

Kevin Peterson, the Managing Director of Holomatrix - a Durban-based company that distributes microdots and will soon establish a microdot manufacturing facility - said that in the minds of criminals, the cars that were microdotted were "contaminated" and as a result were not targeted. "If South African citizens could similarly 'contaminate' all their assets, it would make them undesirable to criminals," he said.

July 18, 2007 Edition 1 - http://www.themercury.co.za/index.php?fArticleId=3938736


Veridot News: The Mercury Tiniest Fighter Against Crime Article 4

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