This article was published in 2007, in Newsletter 75.

We’ve had several requests from the police over the last year to publicise ‘Immobilise’, their website where you can register your possessions to help recover them should they be stolen. We asked Sgt Gordon Morgenthaler, the officer in charge of cycle theft at the Cambridge police station, about the scheme.

Tell us about What’s it for, and how does it work?

Immobilise is a free service that allows you to record the details of as many of your possessions as you wish on a secure, offsite inventory. It is the largest service of its type with over 20 million UK users, 25 million items registered, and over 30 million stolen items recorded.

The recorded information can help you after loss, theft or fire to complete insurance claims, report stolen or lost property to the Police and mobile phone networks.

Immobilise website

It works through the Internet like this:

Register your contact details.

Then add as many items to the account as you wish, all free of charge. Once you have registered, you will be notified by email of your personal account details which will include your login name and password. You will be reminded from time to time to ensure that the details on your account are up to date (this will be done via email). You can add or amend details of your account at anytime.

Report the item you have had stolen or lost.

(Reporting a phone as stolen or lost on immobilise does not block the sim or imei number; to do this contact your network.)

If you have been the victim of crime report the incident to the Police as soon as possible.

Log into your Immobilise account and record the item as having been lost or stolen. This ensures the item is placed on the national database of stolen property that is checked by the Police. It also records it on the public and second hand checkable stolen property register making it harder for the thief to dispose of the stolen property.

Reunite – If your property is recovered by the police or some other agency they will contact you to arrange its return to you. Only the serial number can be checked by the Police or second hand stores. They cannot search on your name or address to find a list of property you own.

How did it come about?

On the 12 January 2005 The National Mobile Phone Crime Unit’s (NMPCU) crackdown against mobile phone crime took a leap forward with the launch of, a new crime fighting tool to help them stop criminals in their tracks and return lost or stolen phones to their rightful owners. The system grew to include any item with a serial number, not just mobile phones, and is now the world’s largest free register of property.

Immobilise is the single place where you can register your property, where the Police can check it any time of the day or night anywhere in the country, and where the questions ‘Who owns it?’ and ‘Is it stolen?’ can be answered instantly.

Is it free?

It is completely free to register and it is free to record anything that has a serial number. You can register as many items as you wish. You will not be charged for this service.

Can photos of bikes be uploaded?

If you wish you can upgrade your account and add photos and certificates of ownership. The cost of the upgrade is £3.99 a year. For this you can add unlimited items with 3 photos of each item. This can be useful for antiques, artwork and jewellery. It will provide you with a permanent record of your valuable items which can be used in the event of an insurance claim or to assist in identification of recovered items.

Over the years, there have been a lot of cycle registration schemes. What makes this one different?

Immobilise is also the only ownership registration service supported by all the UK Police forces, the Greater London Authority, Transport for London and the Mobile Phone Industry.

Uniquely via your Immobilise account any registered item reported as lost or stolen appears on the Stolen Equipment National Database and CheckMEND allowing them to be identified by the Police and second hand trade as stolen. Immobilise stores your contact details and the details of your registered items on a database called the Mobile Equipment National Database or MEND for short. UK Police Forces have access to this information via their online search engine and this assists them in checking the ownership of property they recover. Other recovery agencies such as ‘Transport For London’ lost property can also view the information held on MEND.

‘Datatag’ also record the details of their identifiable microchips on Immobilise.

Some of our members have had concerns about the system being a national database, in that if it were hacked, thieves would have a large amount of useful data. Can you allay these concerns?

Immobilise is housed on its own dedicated servers which are kept in a secure environment with state of the art physical security similar to those used by banks. Only accredited technicians have physical access to the servers. The data is housed behind state of the art firewalls and anti-hacking software. All data transmission between your computer and the servers are encrypted using SSL encryption.

The police cannot search the system from their blackberries or other mobile computer terminals; they can only search from the fixed and secure office computers. The searches are on serial numbers, not names or addresses, so I can’t get a list of the things you own.

All the searches are recorded and audit trails exist to prevent the system being abused by anyone with legitimate access.

If you are still worried, don’t register your bike until it is stolen. You can register your property and report it stolen at the same time so only your stolen items are listed.

Lastly, give us an example success story of how registration in Immobilise has helped in recovery.

As a direct result of Immobilise there are over 250 cases a week where property is returned.

Cambridge Police have had a number of successes with mobile phones. The most recent successes involving cycles include;

A Cambridge cyclist who was stopped for having no lights on their bike. A check of their cycle revealed it had been stolen from Surrey, in a house burglary and resulted in two men being charged with the burglary.

A known shoplifter seen in Cambridge City Centre by local Community Support officers and spoken to. They ran an Immobilise check on his bike and found it was stolen. The male was arrested and his mobile phone was later found to be stolen through another Immobilise check.