A better way to thwart robberies


More powerful than the Bat-signal

Frank Elechi

A U.K. company believes it’s created a more discreet high-tech crime-fighting device than security cameras, or exploding paint packs in money bags.

Here’s how it works. When an intruder trips an alarm system, or when a panic button is pressed, a canister above the door sprays a fine mist over the intruder as he steps through the doorway. The colourless and odourless spray clings to clothing fibres and sits in the creases of the skin. The criminal is then marked, and he never even realizes it.

James Brown, the co-owner of the company that makes the spray explained that if police nab the criminal, they can just scan him with an ultraviolet light. Under the light, if the person is guilty, they can easily be identified.

“All areas on his body that are marked with the spray will glow to show that he has the solution on him. At that point, police can take a swab, send it to us to be forensically analyzed and link him to the crime scene.”

Each spray canister contains a unique synthetic DNA signature, so police can connect the criminal to each particular crime scene.

And the perpetrator can’t just wash away his mistake. Brown said even if the criminal figures out he’s been covered in the spray, the solution isn’t easy to remove, “It depends on a number of factors, like skin type and how many washes, but, generally speaking, it can last up to two weeks. So, police have a very long period of time to catch the criminal.”

The fine mist spray can accumulate on the inside of nostrils and ears and under the fingernails, places usually missed in a scrub-down. And, since the spray is invisible, if a criminal doesn’t have a UV light, he won’t know where it’s lurking.

Businesses using the system can post signs outside their buildings that read “You Steal, You’re Marked.” The hope is that when criminals see the term “DNA,” they'll know that they can be personally linked to a crime, and they’ll choose to walk away.

Police tested the spray as part of a trial in London’s Queensway neighborhood, a popular tourist destination with a high crime rate. In the four-month experiment, burglaries fell by 65 per cent.

Brown explained that the real purpose of the device isn’t to help forensics teams solve robberies; it’s to prevent the crimes from happening at all.

“Primarily it is used as a deterrent to theft and robbery. We don’t want these crimes to happen in the first place.”

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