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Wielding force of a micro dots against rural crime

Media release
Embargoed until 6pm 25 November 2006

New initiative aims to wield force of a million micro dots against rural crime

A national initiative to spread a million microdots across farm property is being launched to fight rural crime.

The initiative aims to particularly help farmers and their families avoid facing personal risks when confronting intruders, and to cut the theft of possessions at high risk.

Nearly six out of 10 farmers report having had to call police over a five year period. More than three out of ten have been hit by crime twice or more and 14% more than three times.

The major problems are machinery theft (29%) and personal property theft (26%).

The thieves' intrusion onto rural properties also potentially poses major personal risks for farmers, 85% of whom have told Federated Farmers in a random national survey they are prepared to personally protect their farms from intruders before police arrive.

Now Federated Farmers and Auckland based company Recordit are launching an initiative to deter thieves – by spraying possessions on each farm with thousands of micro dots, called DataDotDNA. Each dot is between only 0.5 and 1 mm in diameter but carries a unique number linking property to individual farms.

Where the technology has been used on cars overseas, the number stolen has fallen by up to 93%.

Federated Farmers' crime and security spokesperson, Keith Kelly, who farms at South Auckland, says members will be made a special offer on the DataDot DNA kits. They'll also receive a free farm gate sign warning would-be thieves that property on the farms is identified in a way which allows police to identify the owner of stolen property within seconds.

Each participating farm's unique DataDotDNA identification number is registered on Recordit's national database, which can be accessed by police from any police computer nationwide over a secure link.

"We want a million micro dots across farms nationwide, and whole districts bristling with warning signs telling the thieves not to bother," Mr Kelly says.

"Some farms have more than a million dollars in equipment and protecting them with these tiny dots, at the cost of a few hundred dollars, or less, is a great investment. Every farm in the country should have this protection."

Recordit's Managing Director, Peter Haszard, says the microdots, deploying technology used by spies in world war two and the cold war, but with a patented new adhesive making it almost impossible for them to be removed, have already helped police instantly identify recovered stolen property – and make arrests.

The Government is working on details of a scheme, announced in January 2005, which will see micro dots sprayed onto all new and newly imported vehicles as part of a battery of measures, including compulsory immobilisers, to fight a rising tide of vehicle thefts, costing more than $130 million a year. About 30% of the stolen vehicles are never recovered and are "rebirthed" through the sale of stolen parts.

Mr Haszard says farmers particularly face a major problem in quad bike, motor cycle and equipment theft.

"With Federated Farmers, we're keen to help the farmers give thieves a million messages not to bother stepping onto a property. Every item of major value will have DataDots – some in places they'll never be seen. The micro dots make it uneconomic for thieves to remove them all. And as case histories show, if you're caught with an item police can tell in seconds if it's stolen. The thief is in instant hot water. We hope this initiative makes rural life a lot safer. The evidence is thieves can't stand the dots."

Some insurance companies were now offering premium discounts and nil-excess on claims for stolen property protected by DataDotDNA.

Federated Farmers published its rural crime survey, based on 220 respondents chosen at random nationwide, in January 2003. Summary findings of another crime study, being conducted by Victoria University and AC Neilson for the Ministry of Justice, and expected to include rural and urban crime figures, are expected to be published in December this year and the full report early next year.


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