A Yorkshire city has launched a pioneering new scheme to tackle crime and boost business in another UK first.
Wakefield BID (business improvement district) has teamed up with SmartWater with the backing of West Yorkshire Police to rollout forensic liquid tagging across 50 stores in the city centre this year.
This innovative technology has already been used as critical evidence to secure thousands of criminal convictions, making it a powerful deterrent to criminals.
SmartWater is a water-based, inorganic traceable liquid that contains a unique forensic signature. Once marked with SmartWater, items can be traced back to their origin proving where they were stolen from. The liquid is detected using an ultraviolet light, under which it glows SmartWater’s trademarked yellow-green, but is otherwise invisible to the naked eye. West Yorkshire Police are equipped with UV torches, meaning that offenders are routinely scanned for traces of SmartWater.
As the product is not DNA-based, it is incredibly robust and can withstand fire, humidity and sunlight.
Its deterrent power was shown last year, when SmartWater was trialled in Wakefield city centre thanks to funding from Wakefield BID. The trial saw cans of high-strength alcohol marked with the forensic liquid to identify which stores had been selling these drinks to prolific street drinkers. Within months, West Yorkshire Police reported a 60% fall in reported street drinking.
The BID and West Yorkshire Police will now work to identify which stores to roll this out into, including some of the most vulnerable and regularly targeted locations, although criminals won’t know exactly where as signage will be installed throughout the BID area – which covers the city centre – to act as a wide-scale deterrent.
Wakefield BID, police and SmartWater will be out in the city centre’s cathedral precinct on Thursday April 25 from 10am to 2pm giving more information out about the new scheme.
Elizabeth Murphy, Manager of Wakefield BID, said: “We want to send out a clear message that Wakefield city centre is open for business and closed to criminals. We know collectively we will never 100% eradicate crime, but we need to help reduce it and the schemes we ran before Christmas in our can tagging trials had a real impact on anti-social behaviour. We also trialled some in-store product tagging to deter thieves and this saw a huge reduction in thefts during that time.
“The perception and impact of crime is high on the list of concerns of our businesses, so we are taking action using new technology to tackle this. The BID isn’t here to replace the police, but given the cuts our force has faced it makes sense to support them in any way we can to deter and detect crime.”
Inspector Helen Brear of Wakefield Central NPT said officers had found that the use of SmartWater signage in Wakefield and elsewhere had proved to be an important factor in lowering instances of shoplifting. She said: “The feedback from participating retailers has been very positive with one retailer noticing in excess of 90 per cent reduction in shop theft in December 2018 compared to December from the year before.
“It is one of a range of crime prevention programmes we have been carrying out with Wakefield BID including the revitalisation of the store radio network, and the distribution of a ‘criminals catalogue’ to stores to help them pinpoint known offenders.”
As part of the same scheme, SmartWater forensic spray systems will also be deployed. These cover intruders such as burglars with the invisible liquid when illegally entering a protected premises. This results in them being categorically linked to the scene of their crime and unable to wash the liquid off. SmartWater Scientists only need a spec of the solution to provide evidence to the police.
Gary Higgins, Director of Security Services for SmartWater Technology, said: “We are delighted to be working in partnership with Wakefield BID and West Yorkshire Police to deliver what will be the first SmartWater Protected City Centre Zone. We have seen a great deal of success with SmartWater Urban Schemes, SmartWater Villages and business park schemes elsewhere in the UK. We see this as an exciting extension of this work and look forward to helping to build on the success that the partnership has already achieved in tackling street drinking and anti-social behaviour.
“With thousands of convictions and a 100% conviction rate in court to SmartWater’s name, criminals are aware of our power to place them at the crime scene and secure a conviction. By displaying SmartWater Signage and using SmartWater’s forensic liquids Wakefield and its business community are sending out a powerful warning to any would-be thieves. Our aim is to help the partnership make Wakefield city centre an even safer environment for shoppers, visitors and its workforce whilst making it a hostile, unwelcome place for criminals.”
To find out more about Wakefield BID see www.wakefieldbid.co.uk