2 February 1996

deters the felon

Amark in time

It is sad but true that machines will get stolen. Amachine with a unique identity tag ensures its rightful owner is known and a marked machine should be a deterrent to would-be thieves. This Datatag security marking system is designed to meet both these requirements.

HARD as it may be to accept, it is no longer reasonable to expect a piece of machinery left overnight in an unprotected barn to still be there in the morning. Top of the list for thieves is the ATV – easily transported, easily hidden, easily disposed of.

Probably one of the best known security systems for ATVs is Datatag. Introduced 18 months ago by ATV specialist dealer B J L Fielden, it comprises a micro-processor chip, programmed with an identity code, which is concealed somewhere on the machine.

If the ATV is stolen, the machine can be identified by police using a special scanner. The system costs £48 and according to Fielden is taken up by a high percentage of customers buying new ATVs from them.

If an ATV is simply bought by someone who then proceeds to use it without checking its pedigree, it is unlikely the police will ever scan it for Datatag details.

This is a weakness but despite this, Fielden claims only three ATVs fitted with a Datatag have failed to be traced back to their original owners after being stolen.

Part of the system is a Datatag transfer placed on an expensive-to-replace part of the ATV. This identifies the machine as having a tag fitted and, if removed, leaves an etched pattern behind.

Stuck with mess

Although it also tells the thief that a Datatag is present, and he can then set about finding and removing the tag, he will still be stuck with the mess the transfer has left behind. This makes the ATV in question less valuable to him and may possibly put him off stealing it in the first place.

B J L Fielden does offer more advanced security tagging systems, but will only discuss them with genuine customers due to the difficulty of concealing some of the units on an ATV.

Despite such electronic gadgetry, the company still insists the best security measure for an ATV is to chain it to a ring concreted into the floor of a locked building.

Run the machine over the ring, and pass the locking chain over the top of the engine, rather than to the chassis frame or axle. Use a high quality close shackle padlock to secure it. Some form of intruder alarm can also be used as a further back up, with simple units being priced from as little as £100.

Although primarily targeting the construction industry, the Alpha-Dot marker security system used by JCB Plantguard is offered across the JCB product range. Unlike Datatag, which needs to have a scanner to read the information on the tag itself, the Alpha-Dot system comprises tiny microdots, each carrying a unique security code.

The dots are barely visible to the eye, and are applied at random over the machine. Because hundreds of dots are used by the system, any stolen vehicle will be difficult to disguise because it takes only one dot to identify the true origins of the machine or even its components.

But as with a Datatag, the system only works if a machine is checked over for some form of security tagging by a subsequent purchaser or the police. As these types of marking become more widely used, so too will their deterrent effect.

Kit-specific system

The Alpha-Dot system is supplied to JCB dealers in a kit specific to the machine in question, and contains sufficient material to properly mark all major components and ancillaries of a vehicle or item of equipment. Labels warning prospective thieves that machines are carrying security markings are included.

Average cost of the scheme is about £40 a machine.

Other security tagging systems include the Tracker and Trackbak systems – systems which enable stolen vehicles to be located through the use of homing devices.

Initially aimed at protecting high value cars, these systems have found additional use for construction plant and equipment, but have yet to be taken up in anything other than a very small numbers in agriculture.