With 3,000 cars in the UK broken into everyday, the latest in forensic technology is being successfully used by The Metropolitan Police to help tackle theft from motor vehicles.
Selectamark’s SelectaDNA Grease was featured in last night’s BBC documentary series Cars, Cops and Criminals (23 July, BBC1, 9pm), which examined the changing face of car theft in the UK.
Operation Triple Crown, run by Sergeant Damien Ash of London’s Hammersmith & Fulham police, uses the grease as an integral part of their decoy ‘rat-trap’ video cars which are fitted with hidden cameras and parked in crime hotspots.
In the final episode of the three-part series produced by Steadfast TV for the BBC, Sgt Ash and his team are filmed as they set decoy car traps on Hammersmith high street and in the upmarket side-streets of Fulham and Chelsea.
Operation Triple Crown uses cars that have been impounded by the police for being driven with no insurance. Rather than being sent to be crushed, Sgt Ash has a better use for them. He said: “We use BMWs, Alfa Romeos, Mercedes as decoy cars - anything and everything - so that no-one knows which cars the traps will be set in.”
The DNA grease is being used to mark desirable items which are often left in cars such as Sat Navs, DVD players, mobile phones and laptops.
Sgt Ash explains how the grease can ultimately catch thieves in the act. He said: “The grease indelibly marks any criminals who touch it. When a thief comes into contact with the grease, it transfers onto their hands and clothing. Once you have the UV grease on your hands you have either handled stolen items from the car or actually been in the car. The grease is almost impossible to remove and contains both a UV tracer and a unique DNA code.”
News of the decoy cars has spread through the criminal grapevine and theft from cars has dropped by an impressive 16% in the Hammersmith & Fulham area in the past year.
If the vehicle is broken into, the hi-tech cars are programmed to send a text to Sgt Ash and his team. Sgt Ash said: “Hammersmith is not a very big area and we can be at the car in a matter of minutes.”
Whilst filming the BBC programme, a man is caught breaking into one of the decoy cars in Fulham and is subsequently arrested for handling stolen goods. He is given a four month suspended sentence and ordered to do 100 hours community service.
Andrew Davies, Head of Technical Services, works at Selectamark’s hi-tech laboratory in Wales.
Speaking about DNA Grease, he said: “Each pot of grease contains a unique DNA code. The only place where this code exists is in the individual pot and on the item once it is marked. The code doesn’t appear in nature, it doesn’t appear in blood, it doesn’t appear in the environment. It is absolutely unique.” And of its reliability in convicting criminals, he said: “We’ve never called a wrong code. “
Selectamark, based in Kent, has had continued success with its SelectaDNA range of products, which have Secured By Design approval. Used as part of police-backed schemes across the UK, burglaries have been reduced by up to 85% in some areas.
The company is currently working with many police forces throughout the UK to find new ways of beating car crime and reducing theft from residential homes, housing estates, schools, hospitals and business premises.
Hammersmith & Fulham Police. Contact: Sgt Damien Ash. Telephone: 020 8563 1212.
For further information and images contact: Angela Singleton, Press Officer for Selectamark.
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