New DNA-Like Technology – Key to Copper Crime Prevention, Prosecution
By Frank Ross
Perhaps the most frustrating experience for a law enforcement officer is catching a criminal with stolen items and having to release them because of a lack of proof they were stolen, or from where. By now, everyone is familiar with the impact DNA evidence has had on bringing criminals to justice. With advances in modern technology, there is a conceptual clone that promises to help stem the tidal wave of copper crime that has been plaguing industry and individuals worldwide.
Several international companies are marketing an application that is described as DNA-like forensic identification technology. While their methods may vary somewhat in detail, the concept is the same. Originally developed for espionage purposes during World War II, the device consists of a polyester microdot, no larger than a grain of sand, onto which information is imprinted. Then thousands of microscopic dots are applied to a surface intended for protection, and when the dots are exposed to ultraviolet light they glow like a neon sign. Once the dots are detected, all that is left to do is analyze them with a high-powered optical device and make the arrest.
One such product, developed by an inventive Australian company called DataDot Technology Ltd, was initially developed for anti-theft devices for cars, bicycles and boats. With the increase in copper crime, DataDot Technology has expanded its expertise into industrial applications with a new identification system called ‘AuthentiCable’.
AuthentiCable embeds this permanent ‘microdot’ identification technology into expensive electrical conductors to help prevent copper theft and cable theft. This state of the art identification and anti-theft security system is applicable to most electrical components and cables. The product consists of polyester substrate micro-dots onto which unique information is laser etched. These unique dots come pre-mixed in a UV based adhesive for ready application onto high-value assets subject to theft.
Each kit contains its own unique code for a given asset. This code may include a company name, location of installation, a computer generated PIN for personal and business assets, or the dot information may be fully customized. Each PIN is unique and cannot be manufactured again.
In essence, what these products provides is a unique DNA-like identification that is registered on a secure national database accessible by law enforcement. In addition to post crime property identification, another advantage is theft prevention. Studies by insurance and government agencies list the deterrent capabilities as significant due to the dot size and quantum application of 1,000’s of dots, use of warning stickers to highlight that an item is marked, national traceable registration, police awareness and ease of reading any dot.
To facilitate the effectiveness of law enforcement agencies, DataDot provides product to government agencies and police for use in sting operations around the country and the product has been successfully used to make arrests and return stolen goods.
A three year independent study by the National Motor Vehicle Theft Prevention Council in Australia identified that BMW’s, Subaru’s and Holden vehicles fitted with DataDots displayed over a 60% reduction in professional theft.
A British company, Selectamark’s Dutch distributor, Rhine Group BV, recently made headlines in Denmark when they were awarded a contract to protect the main rail infrastructure in the Netherlands from metal theft, using their forensic marking product called SelectaDNA. ProRail will be deploying SelectaDNA’s technology to mark trackside metals with the product’s unique DNA signature, which is highly resistant to sunlight, withstands temperatures of up to 1,000 deg C and can be identified and analyzed on the spot.
SmartWater is yet another, forensic solution product that was launched by a company in the United Kingdom, SmartWater Technology, Limited. Once applied to metals, SmartWater tags it with a DNA-style forensic signature which cannot be removed and is uniquely registered to its owner. The solution is almost invisible under natural light, but under ultraviolet light it glows bright green.
Although the process of marking existing cable and grounding components might be a daunting challenge, the process is relatively simple. With so many new technologies coming into the market, providing solutions for reducing the scourge of copper crime, there is at least some encouragement waiting in the wings.
Next up, motion detectors and cameras.