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Instrument theft – GeoBusiness update

13 June 2019

Survey companies across the UK have been consistently targeted by thieves so it was good to see a TSA session hosted by TSA Council Member and Member and Managing Director of Atlantic Geomatics, Oliver Viney. This session brought together a panel to discuss the latest initiatives, share success stories and inform everyone involved of recent developments. Although the police representative, Tom Harding, Chief Superintendent, West Mercia Police, was unable to make it for operational reasons, the discussion was lively and informative. Thefts are slightly down on last year and this is partly attributed to the arrest of a prominent gang at the end of 2018 and also to the arrival of more deterrents from both manufacturers and the likes of SmartWater (liquid marking/intelligence portal) and Datatag ID (multi-layered tagging and registration).

In 2018 TSA and SmartWater formed an alliance to deliver detailed analysis and police follow-up on every incident of equipment theft. The alliance is sponsored by Trimble, Topcon and Leica Geosystems. However, a show of hands from those attending the session illustrated a key area for improvement. Whilst many victims of instrument theft informed the manufacturer, only a low percentage informed SmartWater.

This is very detrimental to the proposal of any police operation because SmartWater needs to supply evidence of crime hotspots or ‘clusters’ for police engagement in operations such as planted instruments. Unfortunately, GDPR prevents manufacturers and SmartWater sharing information so it’s VITAL that any thefts are also reported to SmartWater via TSA – see side box. Other advice includes the suggestion that every company should have a stolen equipment policy in place with details on who to contact and what information is required.

Finally, TSA urges everyone to remember personal safety comes first! A free Briefing Note on Theft Mitigation Measures and accompanying A4 Poster can be downloaded at

The panel included Chair Oliver Viney (TSA Council Member and Managing Director of Atlantic Geomatics), Ian Pennington (Trimble), John Fraser (Hexagon Geosystems), Simon Crowhen (Topcon Positioning), Rachael Oakley SmartWater, Dave Luscombe (Datatag ID) and Andy Barton (Jelf Insurance Brokers).

In the event of a theft or attempted theft:

TSA has an official agreement with SmartWater for the reporting of ALL survey equipment theft, or attempted theft. This can be done directly through TSA’s website. SmartWater works closely with the police to ensure every incident of survey equipment theft receives detailed analysis and follow-up.


1 Follow the link

2 Download the incident form.

3 Complete the spreadsheet, including as much detail as possible.

4 Send, together with any supporting information such as photos

or videos, to



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