Hi-tech liquid handed out to tackle housebreakers

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A MAJOR crime crackdown will see hundreds of homes handed invisible break-in busting measures.

A pilot scheme will see 600 homes in Grange and Greenbank given a smart liquid – imprinted with a DNA-style code – to brush on to belongings and valuables.

Belongings marked with Smartwater can be identified as stolen goods. Picture: Ian Georgeson

Belongings marked with Smartwater can be identified as stolen goods. Picture: Ian Georgeson

The clear liquid, which shows up under UV light, has already helped halve burglary rates in other parts of the UK.

It is being rolled out in these two specific areas in direct response to police intelligence.

However, if successful, the SmartWater technology packs could become commonplace in homes across Edinburgh, to the severe detriment of housebreakers.

Community safety chief Councillor Cammy Day hailed the hi-tech crime fighting step.

“Having your house broken into and your possessions taken can have a devastating effect on victims, who have a right to feel safe and secure in their own home,” he said.

“SmartWater is an excellent initiative, which has a proven track record in deterring criminals and helping to bring housebreakers to justice, and I fully support plans to introduce it in Edinburgh.”

Once applied, the solution is almost impossible to remove and is only detectable under UV light – allowing officers to identify stolen goods once checked under the light.

High-visibility signs will be in place across the Grange and Greenbank to warn criminals that SmartWater is being used.

And police officers are to be issued with the invisible liquid to spray on criminals caught in act.

The move comes after a spike in break-ins reported in well-heeled districts. Both the Grange and Greenbank were identified as suitable locations for the scheme as part of Operation RAC, a drive to crack down on target those involved in theft and robbery.

Steve Gregory, secretary of Morningside Community Council, said: “We’re very pleased that the police have a number of initiatives to tackle housebreakings.

“Some areas here in Edinburgh are particularly vulnerable. A few of my neighbours have said that they’ve noticed a bigger police presence around here recently.”

The launch of the scheme follows a similar project in the London borough of Brent which had remarkable results.

Chief Superintendent Mark Williams, of Police Scotland, said the measure will put criminals on the back foot.

His Operation RAC has been taking the fight back to housebreakers – after Police Scotland was criticised for “taking its eye off the ball” with regards to housebreaking in its formative months.

He said: “I am delighted that Edinburgh has been selected to participate in the pilot scheme with SmartWater and I am certain the local residents in both the Grange and Greenbank will notice a difference.”

In 2012, the Church of Scotland began using SmartWater after organised thieves stripped tens of thousands of pounds worth of metal from Kirk properties in just six months. And Edinburgh City Council also turned to the product after an estimated £150,000 worth of damage was caused to schools and other buildings as a result of copper and lead theft in just a few weeks.

dawn.morrison@edinburghnews.com