Police in Holland's main harbour city Rotterdam are providing local businesses with DNA tagging equipment to combat the growing number of armed robberies.
A year-long DNA-tagging experiment in the UK 's anti-burglary campaign Operation Lockout showed that crime was brought down by 85 per cent within just a year.
In the year-long experiment in Rotterdam's Rijnmond harbour districts, 21 shops and petrol stations are being equipped with the DNA-coding spray containing an invisible chemical. When criminals are sprayed with it as they exit or enter, the DNA-powder on their faces and hands provide forensic proof - acceptable in any court of law -- that the suspect had been in the attacked venue. The powder - suspended in a red dye - sticks like glue to clothes and skin and cannot be removed for several weeks. The codes can only be read in ultraviolet light.
Dutch policing traditionally has always concentrated on prevention and high-visibility, hands-on policing.
The Rotterdam police last week visited the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames to view the results of the UK programme. The UK police's community safety coordinator for Richmond upon Thames, Kevin Fletcher-Biles, said their teams visit burglary victims and give them DNA property marking kits to protect their possessions – and it works.
Recovered items are scanned for DNA marking and can be returned to their owners quickly. "The kit also contains warning stickers so householders can use them to deter burglars. As a result, burglaries have dropped from 1,500 a year to fewer than 1,000.” Similar systems are in place at Twickenham police station and Hampton. "Criminals are terrified of the stuff, and when they see the stickers, they stay away,' he said.
The Dutch hope that the DNA-tagging spray will also work its magic in The Netherlands: over the past year the number of armed robberies have increased dramatically in Rotterdam and Amsterdam, and thus far this year the Rijnmond police alone have already carried out 200 arrests, nearly twice as many as last year's . They recently also opened an internet site with photos of suspects to help them combat the new crime wave.
A tobacco shop on the Kerstendike in the centre of Rotterdam became the first shop equipped with the spray. today. Meanwhile, shopkeepers in the Rotterdam suburb of Charlois have already started DNA-tagging their more expensive items - allowing the goods to remain recognisable for months. Police said the first results are 'very encouraging'.