'The more victims that we can protect and make feel safe in their own homes, the better. That's the real success story here.'
In a first, a man in the United Kingdom has been convicted and jailed for domestic abuse after being sprayed with a forensic liquid normally designed to catch burglars and thieves. According to BBC, police forces in the UK decided to use SmartWater technology in domestic abuse cases in the hope of keeping women safe. The solution, which shows up under ultraviolet light, reportedly stays on the skin for up to six weeks and for much longer on clothing. It categorically links the perpetrator to the specific batch of water that was sprayed as "every SmartTag handheld identification spray carries a unique forensic code."
The victim—a woman in Wakefield, West Yorkshire—is one of over 200 women across England who were given SmartWater forensic deterrent packages that include a hand-held canister for spraying, a gel for door handles and gates, and an automatic trap that sprays the liquid if someone approaches the house. "Domestic abuse is quite often difficult to prosecute and a lot of these crimes occur behind closed doors. It can be one word against another," said Detective Superintendent of West Yorkshire Police Lee Berry, who came up with the idea.
Domestic abuser jailed after victim sprayed him with SmartWater in UK first. The ‘water’ leaves traces that can be identified and used to convict abusers. https://t.co/6avQaWmO5k— Joolz Denby (@JoolzDenby) February 19, 2022
"If we forensically mark, then we can track someone back to a location. We'll know who the perpetrator is, and we'll know who the victim is, as well," Berry continued. "What we're saying to the perpetrator is, if you go back to that address and you breach these conditions, you will be forensically marked." The kits—which costs about £150 (about $203) a month per person—are currently being used by West Yorkshire, South Yorkshire and Staffordshire Police forces as part of their strategy to fight domestic violence. "SmartWater scientists only require a trace the size of a speck of dust to link the Offender back to a crime scene," states the SmartWater website.
According to the crime survey of England and Wales, on average it costs the police about £640 (approximately $867) to respond to a domestic abuse incident. Berry explained that the force will save about £500 (about $677) on each deployment by using SmartWater as a deterrent. Most victims involved in the trial reportedly informed the police they feel safer armed with SmartWater forensic deterrent packages and 94% of those surveyed across the three forces said they would recommend it to others.
Over 200 domestic abuse victims in England have been given cans of SmartWater to deter their attackers. The technology is being trialled by police forces in the hope of reducing violence. Here's my full report: pic.twitter.com/qjXUifazWk— Shiona McCallum (@shionamc) February 18, 2022
"I really hope other police forces see what we're doing here in West Yorkshire. The more victims that we can protect and make feel safe in their own homes, the better. That's the real success story here," said Berry. The man who was recently convicted using the SmartTag technology was harassing his ex-partner and breaching his non-molestation order that stipulated he must leave her alone. Unlike previous incidents, when he turned up at her house this time and tried to force his way inside, the woman was able to spray the coded liquid from a canister from the protection of her window.
Innovative Forensic Marking Initiative Used in Harassment Investigation in Wakefield— CopperTreeForensics (@CTForensics) January 18, 2022
A man has been jailed for harassment after SmartWater evidence helped prove he had been in contact with the victim in breach of a court order.#Forensics #SmartTag #Dvhttps://t.co/ERoiIbmGVh
The unique forensic tag of the sprayed solution was found on his clothing when he was arrested, placing him at the scene of the crime. He was jailed for 24 weeks and given a two-year restraining order. "SmartWater is made up of a combination of rare elements that would never be found naturally anywhere else in the world. Every bottle has a different amount of those particles within it and each batch is unique, meaning we can tell categorically which batch of liquid is found," explained Rachael Oakley, the director of SmartWater's intelligence unit. "Our database is the forensic link back to that person."