Relevance of Microdot Technology
The microdotting of new vehicles and vehicles that require police clearance has been compulsory from 1 September 2012 through the publication of regulation 56 and regulation 337B of the National Road Traffic Act, Act 93 of 1996 by the National Department of Transport.
Although microdotting of new vehicles and vehicles that require police clearance only became compulsory from 1 September 2012, the first motor vehicles were already microdotted in South Africa from late 2002. AVIS started microdotting their fleet during 2003 with Clarendon Taxi Underwriters making it compulsory on all insured vehicles during the same year. Some of the major motor vehicle manufacturers in South Africa started to microdot their vehicles as early as 2006. This included Nissan South Africa, who took the lead during October 2006, followed by BMW in October 2007 and Toyota who microdotted all Toyota Quantums from the time the vehicle was introduced to the market.
One of the key challenges faced by law enforcement all over the world for many years has been to secure and preserve the identity of the motor vehicle. In South Africa, the South African Police Services (SAPS), with the assistance of Business Against Crime South Africa (BACSA), have looked at a number of alternatives. They found microdot technology to be the most effective. This led to the SAPS promoting the concept of microdot technology as a vehicle identity enhancer for motor vehicles – specifically to assist the SAPS and other role-players in dealing with the high incidence of vehicle theft and hijackings in the country.
What is microdot technology?
Microdots are disc-shaped microdots, typically 1mm in diameter or smaller, containing an identification number that uniquely identifies an asset.
Although microdots are mainly applied to motor vehicles in South Africa, if can be applied to almost any item of value, for example, guns, audio-visual equipment, jewellery, household equipment, televisions, computer equipment, mobile phones, bicycles, power tools and garden equipment.
It the cases of motor vehicles, the microdots contain a vehicle identification number (VIN) or a personal identification number (PIN). Thousands (i.e. minimum of 10 000 for normal motor vehicles) of these microdots are sprayed in a number of overt and covert places. The microdots are mixed in a special adhesive, which is colourless when dry but fluoresces under ultra-violet light. All that is needed to positively identify the vehicle or the part thereof is a single microdot, inexpensive microscope (or magnifier) and an ultra-violet light. The sheer number of microdots sprayed onto a vehicle makes it practically impossible to remove all and effectively provides the vehicle with its own DNA making the stolen vehicle less desirable to thieves.
At end of August 2015, more than 3.1 million vehicles have been microdotted in South Africa. It represents more than 23% of the total motor vehicle population of South Africa. Currently, more than 68 000 vehicles are fitted monthly. Furthermore, more than 400 000 assets have been microdotted. This number is increasing steadily and it is expected that it will double within the next 12 months. This includes most items of value guns, audio-visual equipment, jewellery, household equipment, televisions, computer equipment, mobile phones, bicycles, power tools, compressors, batteries and garden equipment.
More than 16 000 SAPS members, metro police members, traffic officers, vehicle identification specialists and insurance investigators have been trained to utilise microdots. More than 7 500 vehicle identification kits, (i.e. microscope and UVT light) have been distributed within the police services.
Vehicle identification specialists of the Microdot Manufacturers, Importers and Distributors (MIDs) have assisted the SAPS in more than 250 cases to identify vehicles with the help of microdots. This number excludes the vast majority of cases where the SAPS members have identified vehicles without the help of the MIDs. The use of microdots to identify vehicles has become a standard practice within the SAPS and forms an integral part of vehicle identification and the investigation process. Although specific statistics are not available when only microdots were used to identify vehicles, more than 15 000 vehicles fitted with microdots have been recovered.
Statistics also show that the theft rate of vehicles fitted with microdots are considerably lower than the national average. The recovery rate of vehicles fitted with microdots is more than 55% compared to the national average of between 30% and 35%.
MASA currently represents all three of the current Microdot Manufacturers, Importers and Distributors (MIDs), which includes:
- DataDot Technology SA
- Recoveri Dot
Although the identification specialists of all the MIDs have assisted numerous SAPS officers investigating crimes and resulted in many successes, these noted below highlight the effectiveness of Microdot Technology in the fight against crime.
On 3 March 2013, Carol Ann Tucker, who had completed seven Comrades Marathons, was jogging along the R61 near the San Lameer resort when she was hit by a motorist who did not stop. She died at the scene. The policemen investigating her death discovered several parts of a car at the scene. It was found that some of the parts contained microdots of a MASA member, DataDot Technology SA. Through excellent police work by the Margate Task Team, led by Brigadier Morris Moodley, they were able to identify the motor vehicle. They arrested a businessman, Mr Rakesh Omarpersadh, after discovering that his BMW X5 had been booked into an automotive shop in Durban where it was being repaired for damages. Tucker’s blood was also found on the vehicle when it was seized by detectives.
During the course of the investigation, detectives established that the man had submitted a claim of more than R120 000 with his insurance company. He reported the accident at the Sydenham police station more than 100km away from where the accident happened, but did not report the true facts.
Mr Omarpersadh was sentenced to five years imprisonment at the Port Shepstone Magistrate’s Court by magistrate Nonesi Dlamini on 12 May 2014. He was found guilty on the following seven counts; culpable homicide, defeating the administration of justice, failure to ascertain the nature and extent of any injury sustained by any person, fraud, through the submission of a false insurance claim, failure to stop the vehicle after an accident, failure to render assistance and failure to report an accident.
References: Daily News, April 11, 2013; Estcourt and Midland News, 2013; December 8, 2014; Estcourt and Midland News, May 19, 2015.
Lesotho Sandblasted Vehicle
Tracker identified a suspected stolen Vehicle (Toyota Hiace) that had been sand-blasted. One Recoveri Microdot was found on the back bumper and the original VIN was ascertained. The vehicle was identified through the microdot number as being stolen in Bethlehem during June 2014. This case confirms the fact that only one microdot needs to be found in order to identify a vehicle and that criminals would need to remove 10 000 microdots to conceal the original identity of the vehicle.
Corrupt Police Official Arrested
During March 2015, the West Rand SAPS identified a stolen vehicle in a routine roadblock through microdot information. The vehicle was impounded and released via a corrupt Police Official as “not stolen”. This lead to the arrest of the officials concerned.
Relevance of microdots as evidence in court (Opel)
A routine investigation during November 2009 found that a vehicle had possibly false VIN and engine numbers. The vehicle's correct identity was established through the use of the DataDots found on the motor vehicle. The vehicle was fitted with DataDots as far back as 15 October 2004 for AVIS. The original identity of the vehicle was established and it was found that the vehicle, an Opel Corsa Lite, was stolen on 26 September 2009. The suspect was detained for possession of a stolen motor vehicle. A vehicle identification specialist from DataDot testified in court 11 at the Protea court on 14 April 2010. His testimony covered the identification of the vehicle through the use of microdots.
The accused was found guilty on 1 June 2010 for receiving stolen property by magistrate Mrs. Mpofu. The accused, Mr Nkosi, was sentenced R6 000.00 or 5 years imprisonment. In passing her verdict, the magistrate referred to the identification of the vehicle through the use of microdots and mentioned that it was proof beyond reasonable doubt that the vehicle was stolen.
The testimony by the vehicle identification specialist went uncontested in court.
Relevance of microdots as evidence in court (Toyota)
An investigation during September 2013 revealed that a Toyota Fortuner had false VIN and engine numbers. The original identification of the vehicle was established through the use of DataDots that were fitted to the vehicle by Toyota SA on 7 May 2013. It was established that the vehicle was stolen during June 2013. The suspect was detained for the possession a stolen motor vehicle. The accused, Mr. Nkosivumile Prince Mahlangu, was represented by Adv. Barry Roux. The accused, through a plea bargain, was found guilty on 2 June 2015 in the Pretoria Regional Court for the receipt of stolen property and knowing it to be stolen. He was sentenced to 6 years imprisonment, suspended for 5 years.
Asset Recovery: Cell phone towers
During August and September 2015, the SAPS recovered microdotted batteries valued at more than R48 000. These batteries were stolen from cell phone towers and had been originally microdotted by DataDot. Bidvest Protea Coin is currently mandated by Vodacom to oversee their assets. One of their investigators received a tip-off from his informer that the owner of a Scrap Metal Dealer in Pomona was in possession of batteries.Bidvest Protea Coin Investigators had visited the Scrap Metal Dealer on the 9 April 2015 and found 8 batteries on the premises and through the assistance of a Vodacom technician, the batteries were identified as being Vodacom Property. The owner of the Scrap Metal dealership was arrested and detained. He was later, due to a technicality, found not guilty. The owner then provided the investigators with the details of the two men from whom he bought the batteries on the 8 April 2015.The technician from Vodacom informed the investigators that the batteries were possibly marked with DataDots. The investigators then called on DataDot to assist with the identification of the batteries and to establish the details of the location from which they were stolen. The identification specialist from DataDot visited the SAP13 store at Kempton Park Police Station and was able to identify all 8 batteries. The key to the successful prosecution of the two suspects who sold the batteries to the scrap metal dealer was to positively identify the scene of the crime and to authenticate the microdots. This crucial piece of evidence was provided by DataDot by means of the fitment job card completed at the time of fitting the batteries. The two suspects have now been charged with theft of the batteries and the case is being prepared for court.
Microdots a powerful theft deterrent
Microdots are not only a major deterrent against theft and hijacking of motor vehicles but also prove to be a deterrent against theft of assets as indicated below.
A restaurant had suffered a spate of robberies of their electronic equipment / TV’s and computers. The owner contacted one of the Veridot distributors who convinced them to fit Veridot to all their high value electronic equipment, TV’s and computers. They also fitted Veridot signs to the outside of their building. They were broken into again shortly after the new equipment was installed. Not one item marked with Veridot was taken.
Much like the above restaurant, the racing club had been exposed to numerous robberies and theft of high value electronic equipment, computers and TV’s. They contacted Veridot to have the assets in all their outlets marked with microdots. To date they haven’t had a further theft of the marked items.
A mining company were experiencing theft of Nickel / Aluminium ore and ingots during transit from their mines to their distribution centres. Veridot supplied them with cans of Veridot to mark their consignments. This had an immediate impact on the number of thefts, reducing their losses significantly.
In an attempt to stop illegal importation of insects into RSA, the Wildlife Society instructed Veridot to microdot the consignments of illegally imported insects in a planned sting operation. The syndicate was caught red-handed with irrefutable evidence linking them to their illegal action.
Taking cognizance of the above, it is clear that microdotting of vehicles and assets has become an important tool in law enforcement procedures and invaluable for insurance companies in identifying stolen items and in combatting the commercial side of organised crime.
For more information please contact: Mr Fouché Burgers
Microdot Association of Southern Africa (MASA)
Cell: +27 83 449 3433