Special zones protected by a high tech, traceable crime fighting liquid are now in operation in Wakefield in a UK first scheme.
Wakefield BID, West Yorkshire Police and Wakefield Council are now installing signs across the city centre to make it clear to criminals that businesses have been protected with SmartWater packs, allowing property to be traced and thieves to be directly linked to any offences.
The innovative scheme has seen Wakefield become the first SmartWater city centre BID area in the country.
Selected Night Marshals operating in city centre bars have also been carrying SmartWater in recent weeks, giving them the ability to spray and ‘tag’ persons they witness involved in crime, such as violent offences, in the evening economy.
Since its deployment door staff, have noticed a reduction in offending in the night time economy and it is thought the solution- which has not so far been used- is having a deterrent effect.
Wakefield BID is fully funding the initiative to create the SmartWater zone, which has also seen it become the first city in the UK to deploy the solution to Night Marshal style staff as well as a city centre BID area.
After launching in late April, recent weeks have seen a number of business receive SmartWater kits and signage, prompting positive feedback from retailers. The widening use of the spray has taken place alongside its continued use in tagging cans of higher strength alcohol, allowing police to trace beers consumed by street drinkers back to the shops they were bought from.
Instances of anti-social behaviour fell by 60 per cent during the first six weeks of the alcohol tagging scheme, which resulted in several shops voluntarily removing higher strength alcohol from their shelves altogether.
The Wakefield BID (Business Improvement District) was formed in 2017 with the aim of improving the city centre as a place to visit, do business and live.
Elizabeth Murphy, then Manager of Wakefield BID, said: “We want to send a clear message to everyone that Wakefield city centre is open for business and closed to criminals, and our funding of this ground breaking SmartWater initiative is a key part of the wider work. Tackling crime can’t be done overnight or alone, so by driving projects in partnership with dedicated partners, we can make a real difference. We are already seeing and hearing the positive impact it’s having on the city centre when it comes to both thefts and anti-social behaviour. It’s vital the work doesn’t stop here, but act as a catalyst for more initiatives to make Wakefield even safer to attract more visitors more often.”
Inspector Helen Brear of the Wakefield Central Neighbourhood Policing Team, said: “We have been working very closely with Wakefield BID since it was formed in 2017 and have been delighted to collaborate with them to roll out this programme. The feedback we have had from retailers has been hugely positive as they are seeing real declines in theft in their stores. The installation of signs in itself is putting off offenders as they know that if they are sprayed or steal a SmartWater tagged item, they can be linked directly to the offence.”
PC Chris Schofield of the Wakefield District Police Licencing Team, said: “As a licensing team, we have been working very hard to innovate to make our city centre and night time economy safer, and have been really pleased with the support we’ve had from partners at BID and from licensees and retailers. The alcohol tagging scheme is continuing to produce very good results and we have been really pleased with the impact of equipping Night Marshal staff with SmartWater canisters. Feedback suggests the threat of being tagged by staff visibly carrying the solution has helped deter offending with door staff reporting a lessening of incidents since it was deployed. A safer night time economy can only be good news for everyone involved in it and we are continuing to work with our partners to reduce crime in this area, and in the city.”
Cllr Maureen Cummings, Cabinet Member at Wakefield Council for Environment and Communities said: “Wakefield Council and the night Marshall service are pleased to be working with our partners in the roll out of this initiative. We see the use of Smartwater as positive step forward in changing the behaviours of offenders that will contribute towards making our city centre a safer place to visit.”