Keeping tabs on gas canister theft

A new DNA spray application has been developed by Selectamark to combat the growing problem of gas canister theft.

Apr 26, 2012
By Paul Jacques
Assistant Chief Constable Ben Smith

A new DNA spray application has been developed by Selectamark to combat the growing problem of gas canister theft.

The forensic spray can be inserted into the base of an empty gas canister to act as a ‘bait’ to trap thieves. With the SelectaDNA system concealed inside, if a thief lifts the canister it automatically squirts them with a burst of invisible, synthetic DNA spray.

The spray stays on skin and clothing for up to three weeks and provides legal evidence that can link the criminal to the crime.

With warning signage erected on a storage site, the product can also be used to deter theft in the first instance.

Selectamark says thieves have been cutting through wire fences and barriers to steal canisters from industrial storehouses, private homes and caravan sites to sell as scrap. Medical gas canisters are also being taken from hospital outbuildings.

For safety reasons, the canisters have to be stored a certain distance away from a building, making them vulnerable to theft as they are often left in unmanned areas.

The same DNA spray technology that is being used in gas canisters has already been a successful deterrent when fitted into intruder alarm systems in retail outlets across the UK and overseas.

Andrew Knights, managing director of Kent-based Selectamark, said: “Our new spray product has been developed to help police deal effectively with the dangerous problem of gas canister theft and to help them convict criminals they suspect are guilty. The product also works as a highly-effective deterrent and is ideal for use by hospitals, caravan parks, businesses or individuals who want to protect their valuable stock of canisters.”

Durham Constabulary is using tubs of Selectamark’s security marking grease as part of its continuing campaign against metal thieves.

It follows increasing reports of burglars entering the rear yards or gardens of houses and stealing brass or copper taps, earthing wire and anything else with a metal content.

Officers already use ‘SmartWater’, a colourless liquid with a unique chemical code that is visible only under ultraviolet (UV) light. Anyone caught with traces of the fluid can be linked to the house or commercial premises at which it was applied.

Now the constabulary is offering residents a further security measure with the SelectaDNA marking grease, a dark gel that is applied using a brush and which can be scanned using UV detection equipment in the same way as SmartWater.

Police community support officer (PCSO) Laura Denathorn said: “The DNA grease is a relatively inexpensive way of marking property and is especially suited for use outdoors. We have also issued residents with stickers and notices highlighting the fact it has been used and these also act as a strong deterrent to thieves.”

Meanwhile, Birmingham City Council and Amey are rolling out a security marking solution from RedWeb in a bid to combat the theft of gully covers on Birmingham’s roads, which has become a major risk to motorists, cyclists and pedestrians alike.

The partnership, which manages and maintains all of the city’s roads, is using a forensic identifier on gully covers. Stolen covers can then be easily identified with the aid of UV light as the grease developed by Staffordshire-based RedWeb contains a unique molecular code.

Each week, Amey supplies the police with a list of stolen covers and the locations from where they were taken. Joint visits to local scrap dealers are being arranged to deter them from accepting any metal gratings other than from legitimate sources and the British Metals Recycling Association is notifying its members to look out for the stolen and identifiable gully covers.

The campaign will be supported by prominent signage to warn would-be thieves that if they attempt to steal the covers, they will be ‘forensically tagged’.

Detective Chief Inspector Angie Whitaker, the West Midlands Police lead for metal theft, said: “We have dedicated o

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