Tracing Stolen Goods Back to Burglars Gives New Meaning to ‘Plant Evidence’

Burglar entering through the balcony window

(DGIwire) — It’s easy to forget how vulnerable we are to theft in our homes. A rash of robberies last year at one of New York City’s poshest addresses—740 Park Avenue, whose past and present residents have included John D. Rockefeller, Vera Wang and Jacqueline Onassis—shows that even 24-hour doormen aren’t always foolproof. The FBI estimates that two million home burglaries are committed each year in the United States—one every 13 seconds—highlighting the importance of taking every reasonable precaution to protect ourselves.

Security experts maintain that if more homeowners approached theft from a criminal’s perspective, they could dramatically reduce their chances of being robbed, and suggest following these relatively easy and inexpensive steps:

1. Keeping all doors and windows locked when they aren’t home.

2. Staying on friendly terms with neighbors, who will then be more inclined to call police if they see something suspicious.

3. Not storing expensive jewelry or money in the bedroom, the first place most thieves look.

4. Having less shrubbery or trees in the yard and more lights.

5. Keeping the radio and/or television running when they aren’t home to make criminals think they are; and asking local police to do a security inventory, which most will for free.

Beyond these measures, a unique and innovative technology is helping to turn the tables on criminals by linking them to stolen goods. Stony Brook, NY-based Applied DNA Sciences uses a special embedded plant DNA process to provide anti-counterfeiting and product authentication solutions. The company recently announced that 500 households in Tyreso, outside Stockholm, will have household items marked with the company’s anti-theft product DNANet. The trial project, in which Applied DNA Sciences’ patented plant-based DNA technology is intended to directly link criminals with their crimes, is known as MärkDNA and uses a technology known in the U.S. as DNANet, branded in Sweden as smartDNA. The trial is part of a collaboration with the Stockholm Police and with three large insurance companies. The three participating insurance companies sponsoring and financing the project are IF, TryggHansa and Lansforsakringar. Others have also expressed interest, and Applied DNA Sciences has started to bring this technology to the United States.

Items that are marked with smartDNA can be scanned with an ultraviolet light, showing the presence of the DNA marker. At that point they may be sent to the laboratory for forensic analysis and linked back to their original owner. This technology has already proven to be a powerful deterrent to crime in Great Britain and elsewhere, based on its strong conviction rate.

“Law enforcement efforts are becoming increasingly sophisticated, but so too is the worldwide criminal element,” reports James Hayward, President and CEO of Applied DNA Sciences. “With its ability to trace the crime back to the source, our DNANet technology adds a strong layer of protection in recovering stolen goods, prosecuting criminals and ultimately helping to deter theft.”

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