SJUK Exclusive: The time is now to tackle retail crime

February 18, 2022


Angela Singleton, Press Officer for Selectamark explains how the company’s SelectaDNA solution is helping retailers combat crime.

Shops and local businesses play a vital role in society, yet crime targeted at retail staff and company premises is a very real threat post-COVID-19, with incidents at a record high.

According to the Association of Convenience Stores, there have been over 1.2 million incidents of verbal abuse and 40,000 acts of violence against those working in convenience stores over the past 12 months. More than a quarter of these cases involved weapons such as hammers, knives, axes or syringes.

However, retailers including high street and luxury brand names, jewellery stores, supermarkets, factories, warehouses and petrol stations are now fighting back by using a new, hi-tech security system that douses fleeing offenders with an invisible, synthetic DNA solution.

Reducing robberies and assisting police

Designed as a deterrent to robbery, burglary and smash and grab raids, the SelectaDNA Spray system, developed by security company Selectamark, contains a forensic solution unique to each location. This means that criminals can be linked to the scene of a crime.

Consisting of spray heads that can be fitted above windows and doors of premises, the system is triggered as an intruder enters the property, or an offender leaves the premises. The system emits a fine mist of DNA solution onto the offender that stays on the skin for weeks and is only visible under an ultraviolet light. The solution contains a UV tracer and a unique DNA code, linking intruders irrefutably to the crime scene.

Chanel, one of the world’s top fashion houses, has had the spray fitted at two London stores following an attempted smash and grab and a ram raid at its Walton Street boutique. High-visibility deterrent warning signage is being used on the boutique’s windows to indicate that the spray is installed. Luxury retailer, Louis Vuitton, is also using the spray. Independent jewellery stores have seen a significant reduction in robberies thanks to the new spray system being installed in towns and cities across the UK.

Meanwhile, on the high street, Boots stores across the West Midlands, Yorkshire, Southampton and Bristol have had the intruder spray installed so that they are now fully protected across shopfront windows and all access points. Tesco is also using DNA spray at its sites across the West Midlands, Manchester and London, in order to deter break-ins. Since its introduction to nearly 200 sites as part of a successful trial six years ago, burglaries have reduced across their whole estate.

The spray has helped to combat burglary and robberies and protects valuable items of retail stock such as alcohol and tobacco. Warning signs and window stickers are used to alert potential criminals that the system is in use and to dissuade them from targeting the protected premises.

A man was arrested by West Midlands Police and sentenced to 20 weeks in prison after he was sprayed with incriminating DNA spray during a burglary at a Tesco convenience store in Birmingham. He pleaded guilty to burglary after he was shown traces of the fluorescent spray on his skin and clothing, giving the police irrefutable evidence to link him to the crime scene.

An officer from West Midlands Police remarked: “The DNA Intruder spray was activated when the offender jumped behind the counter at the store to steal bottles of alcohol. The unique, synthetic DNA markings in the spray mist are invisible to the naked eye but visible under UV light. Police routinely scan all offenders coming into police custody for these marks, which are traceable back to the crime scene and can last on skin and clothing for months. In this case, the spray was able to help secure a conviction as it linked him directly to the store and his crime.”

Commercial guards and patrol officers working for Venture Security across the UK have been carrying the sprays to provide an extra layer of protection as they go about their day-to-day work making sure people, stock, equipment and premises are safe. “The spray gives our officers confidence that they have the means to act positively in situations where they might not necessarily be able to restrain offenders,” explains Paul Howe, Managing Director of Venture Security.

The handheld tagging sprays have been used by security officers to deter robbers and shoplifters at Westfield shopping centres, to deter crime at upmarket store Harrods in Knightsbridge and by officers in Business Improvement Districts to protect stores in their areas.

James Brown, Managing Director of SelectaDNA said: “SelectaDNA tagging sprays give shopkeepers and retailers added protection and peace of mind. If the worst should happen and a robber enters the premises by force, they can be sprayed with the DNA liquid as they leave the store, which links them instantly to the crime scene. However, as the DNA warning signs act as a highly effective deterrent it is extremely unlikely that any offender would target ‘DNA-protected’ shops.

A global crime prevention solution

The spray has been used by the police to support retail crime prevention schemes across the UK and has also been successfully deployed in Australia, New Zealand, the United States and across wider Europe.

In downtown New York, Truman Jewellers were the target of a snatch and grab burglary last year. A man walked around the store, reached behind the counter and grabbed merchandise. In total, the suspect made off with about $4,000 worth of jewellery. However, what he didn’t know is that he had been tagged with DNA spray which later helped police connect him to the crime after his arrest. “For me, the really positive thing for my staff is that all we have to do is activate the system and let the police do their job,” clarified Paul Crabbe, owner of Truman Jewellers.

The spray has even made its way into a well-known department store in Paris to protect against shoplifting and robbery. A number of entrance and exit points at the iconic La Samaritaine, which was founded in 1870, have been fitted with the spray. Security guards at the store, which has 90 different departments, will also make use of a handheld version of the DNA spray, which makes it easier for them to deter criminal behaviour.

One BID in Lichfield, Staffordshire, used the handheld sprays to protect its jewellery store members against robberies and smash & grab raids committed by travelling criminal groups.

Brown concluded: “As with any successful security strategy, it is all about keeping one step ahead of the criminals. Activation of the system is not the goal, but rather to make would-be criminals think twice. However, if offenders are determined to commit crime, they will be sprayed with the DNA mist, providing irrefutable evidence for police to secure convictions.”

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This article was originally published in the February edition of Security Journal UK. To read your FREE digital edition, click here.

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