One of the most innovative technologies at the forefront of the security industry is a new hi-tech weapon that has been developed in the fight against organised gangs carrying out all types of acquisitive crimes.
Drive-by thefts, robberies and smash and grabs carried out by moped-riding attackers on stolen mopeds and scooters have been a scourge of cities across the UK, but the Police have found a valuable tool to not only reduce these crimes, but to also secure arrest and convictions.
By arming officers with the SelectaDNA spray that tags offenders with a unique forensic ID code, it gives them a valuable weapon that can help track down suspects and link them directly to a crime scene.
The introduction of the new DNA tagging spray by the Metropolitan Police (as part of Operation Venice) has been very successful and was a major factor in a recent decline in moped crime. Across London, Met figures show that from May 2018 to April 2019 there was a 53% reduction in the number of times scooters and mopeds were used to commit crime compared with May 2017 to April 2018. In Edinburgh, there was a 60% reduction from 1st April to 1st September 2018.
The use of the spray has made criminals really assess the risk they’re willing to take and what lengths they will go to in order to ensure they aren’t traceable. Offenders now realise that the police finally have a method of proving without doubt they were at the scene of the crimes they commit. The operation has led to numerous arrests and several convictions.
The tagging formula uses synthetically-manufactured DNA particles to create a unique identifier that can be carried in substances such as sprays, adhesives, gels or liquids and applied to items like jewellery, IT equipment, plant and machinery, vehicles and tools. It can also be used to protect valuable metals on church roofs and in cables used by telecoms and utility companies.
However, it’s not just in London and Edinburgh where the tagging spray has been a success. Police in the West Midlands, West Yorkshire, Merseyside, Cheshire and Surrey are among the many other forces now on board with this highly effective method to identify an offender on a motor-powered vehicle.
The same DNA spray technology is also being used by security teams in the retail and sports industries.
JD Sports is using the handheld Tagging Spray to deter thieves and protect against steaming and shoplifting; a Business Improvement District in Lichfield is protecting its jewellery store members by using the spray to deter robberies and smash & grab raids; and security officers at major shopping centres across the UK are using it to mark would be criminals and offenders and reduce the risk of personal attack. Security teams at Liverpool Football Club are also carrying the spray to deter criminal incidents and personal attacks at Anfield stadium on match days.
SelectaDNA has also developed an Intruder Spray System that helps protect buildings from burglaries and robberies. A canister system is placed above doors and windows that, when triggered by a break-in, sprays the offender as they enter or leave the premises. It contains an ultraviolet tracer and a unique DNA solution that police can swab to take evidence in any prosecution.
While CCTV is very useful for identifying an offender, if they are wearing a hood or balaclava, they can’t usually be identified very easily. But the police will often have a good idea of who it is in a local area so it then gives them the ability to apprehend that person and take a sample of the solution from their skin. If the analysis matches it with the property, it proves the individual was at the crime scene at the time the offence took place – and that gives the police the necessary evidence to convict that person.
Operation Guard, which used the Intruder Spray to deter commercial burglaries, was launched by Greater Manchester Police after a successful scheme in 2018 saw a 24.6% reduction compared to the same period the previous year. The technology is also being used by organisations including Lloyds Bank, the Post Office, Boots, B&Q and Chanel, which also display warning signs on their premises about the spray being used to act as a deterrent.
The deterrent factor has also been highly effective at Network Rail, which uses DNA marking to protect copper cabling on the railways and puts signage up by the tracks saying it’s DNA-protected. On the HS1 route, it’s helped to completely eliminate cable theft (which in turn keeps commuters safer and reduces delays).
In another example of how DNA technology is helping to keep members of the public safer, five men have been jailed for over 45 years after a series of ATM gas and explosive. The men – all from the Stockport and Manchester areas – targeted 15 cash machines in Greater Manchester, as well as in other areas across Cheshire, Yorkshire and Wales. The men stole approximately £429,960 between March 2018 and February 2019.
The sentences came after Greater Manchester Police officers launched Operation Cass, an investigation into a spate of burglaries targeting ATMs across areas of the North West. One of the sites targeted was a Post Office at Heaton Moor, Stockport. However, on this occasion, SelectaDNA Surge was activated, staining members of the gang with a unique DNA code that stayed on their clothing and allowed them to be later identified and linked to the crime by GMP. This process played an important part in securing the gang’s lengthy sentences and keeping the public safe by getting them off the streets for a long time.
Although these new range of technologies have helped to increase police crime fighting efforts, it is one of the original forensic DNA products that remains a trusted crime prevention solution resulting in an up to 83% reduction in household burglaries. These police-led schemes run up and down the country and are often expanded due to their success, such as in Surrey, where over 30,000 property marking kits were recently distributed to residents over a 12 month period from March 2018.
DNA marking has also been adopted by companies such as Openreach, which runs the UK’s digital network, which has chosen it to protect tens of thousands of assets such as mobile phones, tablets, laptops and tools and equipment being used by its field engineers. In the event that a mobile device or laptop is lost or stolen, it can be quickly and easily traced back to Openreach if recovered.
Whatever the crime, whether it’s a street attack, residential burglary or a petrol station being targeted by armed robbers, these all have a major and long-lasting effect on victims. However, the tide is turning and DNA technologies are now leading the way by providing an indisputable link back to a location or a crime – and that’s a criminal’s worst nightmare.
James A Brown – M.D. at Selectamark Security Systems plc
A company director with over 15 years experience in the security industry, James is passionate about providing the industry with highly effective tools to reduce crime, and the fear of crime, in home and working environments.
He has built Selectamark into a trusted partner of police forces, insurance companies, local authorities and businesses, consistently providing strong solutions and services, and building the company into the highly respected organisation it is today.