Recovering property by labelling your home contents

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Household burglary is one of the most widespread crimes in Australia - with around 335,700 break-ins recorded in 2009-10i. Carrying out precautionary steps and securing your home contents with insurance is a great way to prevent and minimise the adverse consequences of theft.

However, if a skilled burglar still manages to steal your possessions, these assets stand a chance of being recovered. Cataloguing and labelling your home contents is one strategy to minimise the risk of property loss and help you reclaim your property.

Popular targets

Drawing upon police figures from NSW and Victoria, it is estimated that there was an average loss of $1,100 per residential burglary in 2003ii.

Whilst the value of a good may place it at the very top of a burglar's 'to-steal' list, Clarke (1999)iii, author of the UK Police Research Series, suggests that the goods most at risk of being stolen are concealable, removable, available, valuable, enjoyable and disposable - CRAVED. The top stolen items in the event of break and enter in New South Wales reflects Clarke's research, where popular targets include laptops and smaller, personal valuables such as mobile phones and digital camerasiv.

Collect and maintain serial numbers

As highlighted in our guide to securing your home when you go on holiday, keeping a detailed home inventory is an excellent way for your stolen items to be traced, identified and claimed. For electronic goods, maintaining serial numbers of the specific items may assist the Police in tracking your possessions. For possessions without serial numbers, consider creating your own personal code and marking it on your property.

Don't share your unique code with anyone else. A personal number may help you identity stolen or lost property.

Mark your belongings

A few simple ways to mark your property may be by attaching security tags or using an ultraviolet pen. Engrave more solid possessions where possible with specific markings such as your special code or driver's licence number.

By marking your possessions, not only do you stand a higher chance of recovering your personal belongings but it also makes it harder for the thief to sell your itemsv.

To enhance the security of your laptop, consider engraving a personal mark on it and record your serial number.

Capture distinctive features

Although your home insurance may provide you with financial comfort, certain sentimental items are simply irreplaceable - your grandmother's jewellery, for instance. To facilitate the identification process it is a good idea to take photographs. Pay attention to recording identifying features. For example, a small chip on your costly vase that only you know of is perfect for identification, particularly if you have photo.

Simple tricks - great reward

According to Police in the ACT, they have a large stock of goods that have been recovered but are unable to return to the rightful owner due to a lack of property identificationv. As explained by the Australian Institute of Criminology, goods that are easily resold are least likely to be recoveredv. By making it as hard as possible for your items to be resold and enabling you and the Police to identify your property, you can increase your chances of getting your valuable belongings back after a burglary.

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i Australian Institute of Criminology:

ii AIC - Counting the costs of Crime in Australia

iii Clarke, R.V. 1999, "Hot products: Understanding, anticipating and reducing demand for stolen goods", Police Research Series, no. 112, Home Office, London

iv The changing nature of objects stolen in household burglaries (2010):$file/bb62.pdf

v AIC - Stolen property market in the ACT