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IDENTIDoT, which has already developed a micro-dot marking system, has been conducting trials on the DNA system since the beginning of the year and reports that only one piece out of the 12,000 it has registered on the system so far has been stolen “and the police think they know where it is and have high hopes of recovery”.

The DNA “fingerprint” is applied to pieces in two forms: a co-polymer which is used for most surfaces and a spray which is used for paper, books and manuscripts. The process, which gives each piece an invisible unique reference number (which is recorded on a central register), leaves no marks or damage on the items, the firm says, and anything put up for marking can be checked with the manufacturers of the chemicals before they are applied to check for suitability.

The process has impressed several security and insurance companies, such as Chubb, CGU and Nordstern, and some are already making discounts available on insurance policies for those who use it. The service costs £300 for the first 10 items and then £10 an item from then on regardless of the value of the object, which means that in some cases the cost could be more than covered by the insurance policy discount.

West Mercia police are supporting the use of the process, encouraging those using it to place stickers in their windows explaining that property inside is security marked. More than £100m worth of items have been marked so far, and the process has been adopted by the Royal Geographic Society and The Arts Club in London among other institutions.