INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - The Porter County Sheriff’s Police has become one of the
first law enforcement agencies in the country to distribute a
theft-deterring chemical that leaves DNA-like “signatures” on property and
those who attempt to steal it.
Makers of SmartWater CSI say that the product makes it easy to track stolen
items and link thieves to their crimes. Although it has seldom been used in
the U.S. beyond Florida, company officials say that it's been used in Europe
for several years.
“I call it virtual DNA,” Porter County Sheriff David Lain said. “It
specifically ties that item or items to that individual owner. It's that
Lain began distributing SmartWater through the Porter County Triad, a senior
advocacy group, on Tuesday.
When treated with SmartWater, stolen valuables can be returned to their
proper owner, its makers and supporters say. The chemical can be applied to
items by owners or can be sprayed in a fine mist to mark burglars who try to
enter property. It's invisible until placed under black light.
The company claims the substance, which is made from “rare earths and
chemicals,” can create up to 1 billion distinct chemical signatures.
After seeing a recent presentation on SmartWater, Lain was so convinced it
would help discourage thieves that he ordered 150 vials at $35 each to be
given away to seniors. Lain added that he’s considering ordering 100
additional kits out of jail commissary funds.
“I think I want to go further,” he said. “It's a matter of financing more
The chemical also has been distributed in several neighborhoods in Fort
Lauderdale, Fla., where Police Chief Frank Adderley said he is considering
expanding to two more.
Logan Pierson, president of the company's Fort Lauderdale-based U.S.
operations, said that traces of the chemical can stay on people for years.
But whether it will hold up as evidence in court isn't known.
Pierson said that SmartWater has been used in one conviction and has been a
factor in several plea agreements, but he said the company expected legal
challenges in the U.S. because it's a new product here.
A Florida law firm has offered to defend suspects who have been sprayed with
SmartWater on the basis of its long-term effect.
Adderley said that burglaries in one Fort Lauderdale neighborhood dropped 14
percent in one year after residents began using the substance. But he
acknowledged that police also used tactics such as covert operations.
SmartWater's main value, supporters say, is as a deterrent.
Adderley said that burglars avoid homes with SmartWater warning stickers,
and suspects are repeatedly shown signs during booking about the hazards of
targeting homes using SmartWater.
Lain is eager to see how the product works in his community. “Everybody
knows the value of DNA,” he said. “So I think the idea of something having a
marker that is individual and unique to an individual is something that
people very much understand.”