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Fighting crime with micro dots
Taking aim at Mantecas annual $4.2M stolen property loss
These graphic shows how much the dots that are the size of a grain of sand contain in terms of personal identification numbers. - photo by Rendering contributed

Criminals stole $4.2 million worth of property in Manteca during 2014.

Manteca Police recovered 42.88 percent of that property with a value of $1.8 million. But most of the property that is recovered doesn’t make its way back to the owner due to it not having identifying marks.

Also police routinely stop suspects for probable cause that they find possessing strands of copper wiring and other items that seem out of place. But if the item hasn’t been reported stolen or there is no identifying marks that it belongs to someone else, police have no choice but to let the individual and property go.

Manteca Police are about to change the game.

Police are partnering with Anti Theft Dots to mark property using micro security dots the size of a grain of sand suspended in ultraviolet traceable glue. The dots consist of a unique series of numbers and letters to create a unique “DNA” that can then be entered into the Law Enforcement National Recovery Database.

The company is working with several Manteca brick-and-mortar businesses to stock the various applications that range from peel off labels to a spray can. They are also supplying Manteca Police with specialized equipment at no cost to read the micro security dots. The products are expected to be available locally within a month or so.

And while the biggest advantage to date in other communities has been returning recovered property to its rightful owners, Manteca Police Chief Nick Obligacion sees it as a way to take criminals off the streets.

For example, if the Manteca Police see someone on a bicycle with a light in the wee hours of the morning hauling a weed eater they have probable cause to pull them over for violating state safety laws. That would allow them to check the weed eater. If a scan by the officer using a device supplied by Anti Theft Dots comes across the micro security dots and they have been registered in the national data base, police have proof that the property doesn’t belong to the suspect making an arrest possible.

“It can even be used on copper wiring,” Obligacion noted.

Each sheet of 20 labels has its own unique Personal Identification Number (PIN). Single labels for someone wanting to mark only one item such as an air conditioning unit or a bicycle will have a unique PIN as well. A spray can also will available that will disperse dots with redundant PINs that are unique to that spray can.

Once micro dots are applied on items such as tools they will not wear off and for all practical purposes are invisible to the naked eye.

Once applied, the unique numbers can be registered using your smartphone and downloading the app. When the app has been downloaded, you scan the barcode on the front of the label that comes on the spray can. You then enter your personal information and provide a description of your property including any serial numbers if applicable. The final step is to take a picture with your phone’s camera and upload it to the database.

You can also go on your computer and access and click on register now. You then enter your unique PIN and contact information. The last step is going to the “manage my property” section and providing a description of your property.

Obligacion said it beats the old school recommendation of inscribing your property with either your Social Security number or driver’s license number in a hard-to-find place on items.

“With growing identify theft problems it isn’t smart to do that,” the police chief said.

Working with Anti Theft Dots is part of the department’s ongoing initiative to find ways to stem the tide of misdemeanor thefts and even items that could qualify as felony thefts based on higher values.