Alternative ways to deter crime: Forensic Solutions

Alternative ways to deter crime: Forensic Solutions

Regardless of what industry or vertical, safety of people and property takes priority above all others. The following cases highlight particular actions taken by organizations and corporations to limit criminal activities in their business settings, but also how simple existing technologies can be used to prevent crimes.

McDonald's Down Under Halts Robbers with DNA Spray
After multiple locations of the fast food giant had been robbed in late 2012, McDonald's Australia decided to reinforce its security measures by installing security systems that spray robbers and thieves with a non-toxic, water-based DNA solution.

The DNA solution mimics human DNA, as it is composed of the same base nucleotides – Adenine (A), C (Cytosine (C), Guanine (G), and Thymine (T). “It is the combination of these A, C, G, and T's that make each canister of SelectaDNA unique, and because each DNA strand is short-chain, it is as robust as human DNA,” said Alice Baillie, Marketing Manager at SelectaDNA.

After conducting a successful four-month trial in six of their busiest locations, several McDonald's locations across Australia deployed this system in hopes of preventing further robberies. “Prevention is the key, and as we have many restaurants that are not all the same, it is important to McDonald's that we provide a range of security tools and solutions that our restaurants can tailor to suit their particular situation and risk profile,” said Skye Oxenham-Lupul, Media Relations Manager of McDonald's Australia.

Installed over the entrance at each McDonald's location, the system releases the solution in micro-mist form, dousing the offender with the special DNA-laced solution, linking them to the scene of the crime. The solution contains a UV tracer invisible to the naked eye, but immediately reacts to the rays of a UV light by glowing bright blue. The resilient formula is able to remain on the suspect's clothing for up to six months, even after it has been thrown in the wash. The solution will also remain in the creases of the suspect's skin for up to two weeks, as that is the normal period of regeneration for human skin, and stay “indefinitely” on items such as bags, hats, and weapons.

The DNA-based anti-theft system provides an additional layer of security on top of more orthodox systems such as building alarms and video surveillance. Police are able to piece together evidence from all the systems when carrying out their investigation. If an offender is found to have traces of the DNA spray on his belongings, the footage from the site presents a visual layer of proof, placing the offender at the scene of the crime at the time in question.

A key component of the system is the highly visible warning signs SelectaDNA supplies to its users, alerting the potential thieves and robbers of the spray system to dissuade them from targeting the stores. So far, the system has been used successfully in the prosecution of offenders overseas and proven as an effective crime deterrent for McDonald's locations in Australia. “During the trial the restaurants experienced zero robberies and reduced instances of anti-social behavior. In the past twelve months, security incidents (including robberies) at McDonald's have halved as a result of our multi-level approach to crime prevention and the range of tools, technology, and training we provide,” said Oxenham-Lupul.

Though the system did set off a few false alarms during the trial period, there are procedures in place to ensure the spray system cannot be activated unintentionally. False alarms are very rare with this system due to the process involved in setting it off. A false alarm does not occur via system malfunction, but through human error. Procedures are taught in system training for staff members to eliminate these incidents,” said Baillie.

Currently, the system is installed in 19 McDonald's locations in Australia, and will continue to be implemented in more restaurants across the country. McDonald's is the first chain restaurant in Australia to use the SelectaDNA spray system. It is used comprehensively in the banking sector and also in large format retail in both New Zealand and Australia at the National Australia Bank, Bank of New Zealand, The Warehouse, and Warehouse Stationery. Discussions are being had with companies across all industries, according to Baillie.

War Memorials Marked to Prevent Theft
Metal theft is currently estimated to cost the UK economy in excess of US$1 billion on an annual basis and the already financially-pressed local authorities are paying out hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to repair damage caused by metal thieves who have made historic buildings, including schools, churches, and cemeteries their targets. The rise of theft is largely attributed to the increased value of metals due to its growing demand in regions all over the world.

With intentions to provide greater protection to war memorials across the U.K., War Memorials Trust and The SmartWater Foundation came together and formed In Memoriam 2014. This national campaign, created to honor the hundredth anniversary of World War I, urged affiliated custodians nationwide to register memorials to protect the nation's treasured historic heritage. Each memorial, made of bronze, copper, and other metals can be marked with forensic solution provided by The SmartWater Foundation, giving them each a virtually permanent unique signature, visible only under UV lights. Furthermore, it is able to endure sand blasting, burning, and prolonged exposure to sunlight.

“SmartWater contains a unique mixture of various inert chemical compounds, the combination of which is never repeated. Every bottle is therefore chemically unique and is registered to a particular address or location providing irrefutable traceability,” said Dave Reynolds, Corporate Communications Manager of SmartWater. This solution provides the necessary proof for thieves to be linked to the scene of the crime, providing valuable supporting evidence to aid the prosecution of those who desecrate valuable historic pieces. SmartWater has been responsible for over 1,000 criminal convictions for crimes including burglary, robbery, metal theft, and fly-tipping. Crucially, SmartWater also maintains a 100 percent conviction rate in court, according to Reynolds.

Launched in October 2011, the program has already seen a tremendous decline in metal thefts. Previously, 60 cases of theft and vandalism of the memorials were reported to the War Memorials Trust in 2011. The number of reported thefts and vandalism decreased dramatically to only 20 counts for the year of 2012. The program also gained the support of the Duchess of Cornwall, who performed the honor of marking the Royal Artillery Memorial with SmartWater's solution. As Frances Moreton, Director of War Memorials Trust says, “In Memoriam 2014 is a wonderful opportunity for communities to protect their war memorial heritage and demonstrate, as we approach the centenary of World War I, how important these memorials remain for them today.”

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