New technique helps protect your assets

It can be very difficult for victims of theft to recover their stolen belongings. But there’s a new product that’s promising to give your items their own unique code that will help you catch thieves red-handed…or green-handed.

The product is called SmartWater CSI. It’s been used for years in the United Kingdom, but has only recently come to the United States. “SmartWater is a unique forensic code that contains 26 rare-earth minerals that provide a one-in-a-billion combination that allows it to be traced to a particular individual,” said Leland Liebe, with SmartWater CSI in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.

Right now, SmartWater is in use in several communities in and around the company’s headquarters in Florida. The company is hoping it catches on nationwide because they say it’s a theft-deterrent along with being a way to recover stolen items or catch criminals.

The product is a liquid that glows green under a high-intensity UV light. It can be applied to clothing, jewelry or electronics. “It can last on clothing, we guarantee it for up to 5 years,” Liebe said about the products application to objects, “It can last on the skin for multiple showers…we can find it, in many cases, weeks later.”

SmartWater CSI provided Fox 25 with samples of their product to test. We marked a variety of items including the arm and hands of Fox 25’s Phil Cross. The SmartWater lasted on his hands through several washings and on his arm for more than a week. Once the liquid dries on your items it is difficult to scratch off and the company says only a small amount of the product is needed for them to be able to analyze it under a microscope to find the unique code embedded in the product.

“I see a lot of advantages towards it, especially for items that don’t have serial numbers,” said former police officer Wes Elliott. Elliott owns Practical Shooting in McLoud and teaches the public how to protect themselves.

Elliott said property crimes are some of the hardest to solve for police. He says people should keep an inventory of the high-priced items they own, using pictures and serial numbers. But he says some items like jewelry, for instance, do not have serial numbers. He says if pawn shops and other second-hand buyers had the technology to scan for SmartWater it could make a difference in early identification of stolen items.

SmartWater is working with police departments and jails in Florida to equip them with the special lights needed to detect the product. They say another application of the product is in burglar alarms themselves. SmartWater can be equipped to spray when an alarm goes off, nearly permanently marking the criminal a unique code that places them at the crime scene.

Oklahoma City police tell Fox 25 they have reviewed SmartWater and are interested in the applications for the metro area. However the city is concerned about how the technology will hold up in a US court. Right now, there have been no cases involving SmartWater in court, but that’s not because it’s not helping catch criminals.

“Because of the characteristics associated with its unique traceability most individuals associated with SmartWater have pleaded out,” Liebe said, “We anticipate to have our first court case in the United States very soon.”

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