An evaluation of property marking schemes in Essex

Research Institution / Organisation


In Collaboration With

Essex Police

Principal Researcher

Winifred Agnew-Pauley

Level of Research

Professional / Work-based

Project Start Date

August 2019

Research Context

Property marking has been used by police forces since the 1980s in England and Wales (Laycock, 1985), and since then a range of modern property marking products and companies, using technology such as forensic liquid, DNA and UV light, have emerged. The marketing of these products and partnerships between property marking companies and law enforcement agencies has expanded the use of this tactic across the country, both as police-led initiatives and individual commercial purchases by consumers (see for example, Metropolitan Police, 2020 'MetTrace'; SmartWater, 2020a; West Midlands Police, 2020 'Track 'N' Trace').

While property marking has been used in Essex and by Essex Police in the past, there has yet to be any academic research into how effective this strategy is at reducing burglary. As such, this evaluation will be the first to assess the impact of a range of property marking products on domestic burglary in Essex.

The objectives of this project are to:

  1. Explore the effectiveness of property marking/recording schemes to reduce the instance of dwelling burglary in Essex 

  2. Understand the effect of the delivery of property marking products on the perception of crime prevention among residents

  3. Develop an evidence-based strategy on property marking/recording in Essex that can be used to inform burglary prevention policy in Essex

Research Methodology

Much has been written on the importance of a comprehensive evaluation methodology, particularly in the field of crime prevention. Realistic evaluations prioritise not just whether an intervention or program is successful, but how does it work, under what conditions and for whom is it successful (Pawson and Tilley, 1997; Pawson, 2006). The EMMIE framework, as an extension of this evaluation method, posits that evaluations of interventions ought to establish five key components of a programme: effect, mechanisms, moderators, implementation factors and economic costs [EMMIE] (Johnson, Tilley and Bowers, 2015). This evaluation is using the EMMIE framework to determine how effective the property marking scheme is and how the effects could be produced elsewhere.

Mixed method data collection will include analysis of crime data, survey of residents and semi-structured interviews with Essex police staff and officers involved in the delivery of the property marking project.

  1. Burglary data will be obtained from Essex Police on the incidence of dwelling burglary in the test and control areas before and after the delivery of the project. 

  2. An online survey of residents who took part in the project was conducted at two points in time: within three months post product delivery and six months post product delivery. 

  3. Interviews with Essex police officers involved in the delivery of property marking products and Essex Police staff involved in the overall delivery of the project were conducted to examine the implementation of the project.

Interim reports and publications

‚ÄčInterim findings can be obtained by contacting the researcher.

Date due for completion

February 2021
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