THE latest in DNA technology has been deployed by leading housing association Pennine Housing 2000 to combat a spate of thefts from empty homes.
Forensic product SelectaDNA has been applied to boilers and copper piping in empty properties in the Calderdale area of West Yorkshire, to protect them from thieves who have been operating in nearby areas.
The high cost of metals, particularly copper, and the current 'credit crunch' have contributed to the problem of repeated thefts, to the value of approximately £30,000 over the past three months.
Jonathan Howarth, Pennine Empty Properties Co-ordinator, said: “It has reached epidemic proportions and we have had to take drastic action. Thefts from empty properties have escalated to the point where they are at five times the level of a few years ago.”
Pennine Housing 2000 is part of the Trans-Pennine Housing Group, which provides affordable housing for rent in the north of England. In total the group owns and manages about 16,500 properties, ranging from one-bed apartments to family accommodation and sheltered housing for older people.
Pennine is using SelectaDNA, a solution containing a unique DNA code that provides a forensic link between thieves and a crime scene, to protect boilers and heating pipes in selected empty properties. SelectaDNA can easily be applied onto any types of metal and is only visible using a UV lamp.
Jonathan Howarth said: “It is an invisible marker which can be scanned by the police to link the marked item with the registered owner. The liquid is invisible to the naked eye and does not wash off - better still each application features the equivalent of a 'forensic' bar code. That means that any product stolen can be traced as having come from a specific property.”
He continued: “The properties targeted by thieves are often houses and flats made ready for people to move into and it results in massive inconvenience for tenants. It delays the whole process and has a further serious impact through the loss of rent.”
John Earnshaw, Head of Housing for Selectamark, the security company that produces SelectaDNA, said it also offers peace of mind to tenants who are concerned about rising crime rates.
He added: “In my 40 years as a housing professional, I have never seen a more innovative crime-reduction product. It is a real boom in areas where there are 'difficult to let' or empty properties, which cannot be let because of burglaries and the fear of crime. In urban areas where the fear and perception of crime is very real, SelectaDNA allows residents and tenants to go about their daily lives without having to worry about burglaries and crime being on the increase."
Crime prevention officer Stephen Holderness of West Yorkshire police, said: “It’s excellent that the new system is being introduced by Pennine. We brought in DNA marking to an area of Todmorden (in Calderdale) where burglaries had gone through the roof - within six months the figures had reduced by 84%. Part of the process was making prisoners going through the cells aware of DNA marking. The strength of the evidence resulted in guilty pleas every time.”
For further information and images contact: Angela Singleton, Press Officer for Selectamark.
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