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Operation Identification

From EverybodyWiki Bios & Wiki

Operation Identification (Operation ID, OpID) is a citizen's burglary prevention program for use in homes and businesses[1], developed by police in the United States during the 1960s.


Operation Identification sign in Miami-Dade County, Florida

The Operation Identification program is designed to reduce theft, help police make arrests if a burglary does occur, and improve the recoverability of stolen property.[2]

The program encourages citizens to:[2]

  • Mark valuable property with a unique identification number (UIN) such that it can be traced back to the rightful owner.
  • Make a secure list of marked property that includes the make, model, and serial number.
  • Place visible signs or stickers on doors and windows to inform others that the content of a home or business contains property marked with identifiers and recorded serial numbers.

The program aims to make it more difficult for burglars to dispose of stolen goods as they can be traced back to the original owner and improve the likelihood of participants recovering their stolen property. Also, people found in possession of marked goods provide the police with solid evidence of criminal activity. Operation Identification signs and stickers are used to act as a deterrent to would-be criminals who may decide to try elsewhere when informed of the added traceability of the goods.[3]

Operation Identification was developed at a similar time as Neighborhood Watch was being promoted.[2] Unlike Neighborhood Watch, Operation Identification did not find widespread use, even though it was endorsed by significant organizations such as the FBI.[4] Despite this, Operation Identification is still promoted by many police departments and colleges across the United States.[5][6]


Operation Identification sign in Denver, Colorado

Operation Identification was initially developed in the United States by the police in 1963.[7] This was in response to the growing incidence of theft across the nation. Between 1974 and 1978, the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration reported spending roughly $26 million ($115 million in 2020 dollars) to fund 378 crime prevention projects with an Operation Identification component. Police departments would sponsor Operation Identification programs for residents, and many neighborhood organizations promoted and implemented marking programs.[8]

Property marking was also encouraged by private companies and insurance companies. A national insurance association offered clients free engravers, literature, and participation stickers with other insurance companies offering discounts to clients who marked their property. One company provided customers a service where they would be provided an engraver, window stickers, and inventory sheets. Then the identity and current address of the enrolee, along with the assigned number, were stored in a data bank for retrieval.[8]

Most of the effort to encourage property marking was aimed at the personal property of private citizens but some businesses along with state and local governmental units also participated.[8]

A 1979 survey by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) primarily performed in New York State and at federal agencies in Washington D.C. indicated that Operation Identification was being widely implemented and showing benefits although it had not been pursued by any Federal agency. Of the 28 police departments contacted during the survey, 21 were implementing property marking programs.[8] Following this survey, Operation Identification was rolled out by the US Department of Justice in 1979.[9]

The program was endorsed by the:[9]

Unique Identifiers[edit]

Operation Identification was hindered by the lack of a uniform equipment marking system (UEMS) able to generate unique identification numbers (UIN) for storage and retrieval on a uniform identification system (UIS). The use of numerous different identifiers inhibited police efforts to return stolen property to its owners.

Of the 21 police departments implementing a form of property marking programs contacted during the 1979 GAO survey:

Even with a recommended identifier, participants in the program used vague identifiers such as initials or identifiers that were subject to change such as ZIP codes and telephone numbers making the return of stolen goods difficult.

An evaluation funded by the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration in 1975 found that Operation Identification participants did experience fewer burglaries than their neighbors. However, the evaluation reported that burglars did not find it more difficult to dispose of marked property and that marked property recovered by police was not more likely to be returned to the owners. The evaluation stated the absence of a unique and permanent identifier for each property owner in the United States as a reason for these shortcomings of the program.[8]

Current use[edit]

Operation Identification is still endorsed by police in the United States with many departments actively promoting the program.[11] As well as police departments, Operation Identification is encouraged for students by colleges across the country.[6]

There are some private companies that partner directly with the police, giving them ready access to serial numbers collected and entered by citizens. These companies frequently dispense with marking property or use pre-Internet marking strategies.[12][13]

There are newer companies that issue uniquely numbered identifier tags associated with a unique website that allows only the rightful owner of the property to enter and access serial numbers. If an account holder is a victim of a crime, it is up to them to provide police with serial numbers, so they can be entered into the National Crime Information Center. This strategy, via the internet, also connects a Good Samaritan with the rightful owner if the identifying tag is intact, using a regulated Anonymous P2P communication strategy.[14]

Outside the United States[edit]

In the United Kingdom, the Metropolitan Police recommend similar property marking techniques to Operation Identification. They suggest the use of approved marking solutions in the form of a special marker pen or paint only visible under ultraviolet (UV) light to mark or etch personal property with the postcode, house or flat number or the first three letters of the owner's address. They also encourage that valuable items are registered with an accredited property database.[15]

LPCB guidelines[edit]

In 1996, the Loss Prevention Certification Board (LPCB) issued its first set of guidelines for the migration of Operation Identification to the Internet.[16]

  • Loss Prevention Standard LPS 1224 Issue 3.1 (2014) lists the requirements for companies providing secure asset registration services. This standard specifies requirements for asset registration companies providing secure asset registration services designed to support the identification and repatriation of assets when those assets are lost or stolen.[17]
  • Loss Prevention Standard (LPS) 1225 Issue 3.2 (2014) lists the requirements for asset marking systems. This standard specifies requirements for the composition and performance of an asset marking system such that, when used according to the manufacturer's instructions, the asset marking device may: i) enable the marked asset to be traced to the legal owner via a secure database register linked to the marking system employed, and ii) act as a theft deterrent in the first instance by virtue of a visible marking.[18]

See also[edit]


  1. "Operation ID" (PDF). Tucson Police Department. Retrieved 2020-04-11.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 "Five Old-Fashioned Ways to Help Police". My Property ID Registry. 2019-01-01. Retrieved 2020-04-11.
  3. "Operation Identification" (PDF). Maryland Police and Correctional Training Commissions. Retrieved 2020-04-11.
  4. "Operation ID: Biggest Marketing Flop in U.S. History". My Property ID Registry. 2018-08-04. Retrieved 2020-04-11.
  5. "Operation Identification". City of Taylor. Retrieved 2020-04-11.
  6. 6.0 6.1 "Operation Identification". University of Amherst. Retrieved 2020-04-11.
  7. "Law Enforcement Professionals Endorse Operation ID". My Property ID Registry. 2018-11-07. Retrieved 2020-04-11.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 "Memo B-171019" (PDF). Government Accountability Office. Retrieved 2020-04-11.
  9. 9.0 9.1 "Government Accountability Office (GAO) Validates Operation Identification". My Property ID Registry. 2017-06-21. Retrieved 2020-04-11.
  10. Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America
  11. "Operation Identification". City of Taylor. Retrieved 2020-04-11.
  12. "Serial Number Registry". Retrieved 2020-04-11.
  13. "Immobilise". Retrieved 2020-04-11.
  14. "My Property ID Registry". Retrieved 2020-04-11.
  15. "Mark your property to deter burglars". Metropolitan Police. Retrieved 2020-04-11.
  16. "LPCB standards and certification". BRE Group. Retrieved 2020-04-11.
  17. "Loss Prevention Standard LPS 1224 Issue 3.1" (PDF). Red Book Live. 2014. Retrieved 2020-04-11.
  18. "Loss Prevention Standard LPS 1224 Issue 3.2" (PDF). Red Book Live. 2014. Retrieved 2020-04-11.