Jan 7 2013 by Hannah Bewley, Harrow Observer
Brent Police is one of a handful of boroughs in the capital to trial SmartWater, which helps officers to track stolen property and link suspects to specific crimes.
The substance is a liquid applied to valuable equipment or jewellery in people’s homes and has a unique ‘DNA’. If the item is stolen and then recovered police can identify where it came from and link this to the crime report for that burglary.
It is already used in some industrial premises as a spray which covers any intruder and cannot be washed off and is invisible to the naked eye, but is easily detectable under a UV light.
Officers have visited more than 2,500 homes and have had a positive response from homeowners.
Detective Inspector Peter Stride said: “Once we tell people how it works they are pretty interested. There have been enormous crime reduction rates in areas where it has been tried before and this is part of a new crime prevention strategy.
“The response has been positive in all areas and we have visited most of the pawnbrokers and most of them are using the UV lights. Visiting people also gives us the opportunity to let people know about crime prevention and we want to publicise this scheme as much as possible so it acts as a deterrent.”
There is a team of one sergeant and 10 officers approaching people in Brent to see if they would like to trial the substance. Residents also receive a sticker to warn potential thieves that they use SmartWater.
A total of 930 householders have signed up so far and more are following.
Police are also handing out UV lights to pawnbrokers and shops which buy second hand goods, such as jewellery, so they can identify whether any of the items have been stolen.
The owner of a jewellers in Harlesden said: “We have had the light for a week and luckily haven’t had to use it yet, but it seems like a good idea and easy to use.”
Police have also been working with Catalyst Housing, the social landlords for much of the area covered by the SmartWater initiative.
The trial is due to last six months and police hope it will be rolled out into schools and businesses.
Chief Inspector Partnership for Brent Andy Jones said: “This has been going on for the last four weeks and we have seen a year on year reduction in crime already.
“In the period of November 5 to December 17, 2011, there were 25 burglaries in this area, while in 2012 there were 10 in the same period.
“We have dedicated a team of officers to assist us in rolling the product out to domestic homes and commercial premises on the borough.
“I have no doubt that the use of this product will assist us in identifying and prosecuting burglars who commit crime on this borough.
“We intend to utilise the product more widely moving forward, so Brent will quickly become a no go zone for those who think that they can commit these crimes and get away with it.”