Military tech and Smartwater helping tackle crime across Doncaster '“ police column

This year has seen us using the chemical marker liquid Smartwater to fight domestic burglaries '“ and now we are  ready to use it to protect businesses, writes Ch Insp Paul Wilson

Wednesday, 12th December 2018, 12:48 pm
Updated Wednesday, 12th December 2018, 12:55 pm
A police drone was used to help search the perimeter fence around HMP Lindholme

We have seen success in reducing burglaries in people's homes by using the chemical, each batch of which carries a different DNA-style code, since it was introduced in parts of the borough under what we have called Operation Shield.

Now we are going to use it in shops and commercial premises across the borough, using what we are calling '˜trap sets'.

A police drone was used to help search the perimeter fence around HMP Lindholme

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Trap sets are pieces of equipment which will spray burglars with a small amount of the chemical if they break into a property.

Through this scheme we will be extending Operation Shield to businesses in the town centre and the surrounding villages '“ in fact to any shop across Doncaster.

We have bought a number of the trap sets and they will be moved from shop to shop across Doncaster. We will not be saying where are going to be sited.

Anyone who breaks in will trigger an invisible spray that will mark that particular person. We have just had hundreds of posters delivered that we will be distributing to shops across the borough for them to display, warning about these measures.

We will be able to scan anyone who we stop and search on the street for signs of the Smartwater, and that will provide evidence that they have been at the scene of the burglary.

In addition to that, anyone who we arrest will also be inspected for signs of the chemical.

There are shops who have already asked to have the trap sets on their premises, as well as some commercial premises which have been burgled in the past.

Our officers will be going round businesses to explain the operation. It is the first time we have done anything like this.

As far as domestic properties are concerned, Operation Shield has seen an increase in the rate of uptake from householders in Doncaster who have been offered the chance to have their own possessions marked with Smartwater, which makes it easy to trace items if they are stolen or lost.

Households are being sent a letter in several languages explaining the scheme in some detail, and providing an email address for those who wish to arrange an appointment to have their items marked.

We recently received a boost from the courts in the battle against violent crime, when a Mexborough man was  sentenced to 10 years in prison after he attacked another person with a machete during a gang fight.

Jason McGuire, aged 24, of Schofield Street, Mexborough, pleaded guilty to grievous bodily harm at Sheffield Crown Court.

His co-defendants, Liam McGuire, aged 27, also of Schofield Street and Samuel Wright, aged 20 of Elm Lane, Conisborough also pleaded guilty and were sentenced to 30 months in jail for violent disorder and 18 months for affray respectively.

I am pleased that the long prison sentence sends an important message out. It should act as a deterrent to criminal gangs in Mexborough and Doncaster as a whole, while the perpetrator of this act is in custody.

These are the sort of sentences that we are looking for from the courts and send a strong message to the people of Doncaster about knives.

Another 17-year-old also recently pleaded guilty to wounding with intent, in connection with another knife attack in Mexborough, he is due to be sentenced in the near future.

Meanwhile, police in Spain have arrested a Doncaster man in Malaga at the request of our officers here in South Yorkshire. He has been accused of GBH with intent in relation to an incident at a shop in Stainforth earlier this year.

The extradition process has been started.

We have also been turning our attentions to Doncaster's prisons recently, through our ongoing Operation Fortify.

We have seen a lot of success in sending specially trained search officers into all the borough's jails to look for illegal items in places which many others without their specialist expertise would not think to look.

This week we recovered a lock knife, a home made knuckleduster, other improvised weapons, and controlled drugs.

These items are being forensically examined to see if they can be linked to any serving prisoners.

We have also used the same state-of-the-art technology that was used by the military in Afghanistan to watch for smugglers outside the jails. Her Majesty's Prison and Probation Service drones are being used around the perimeter of the prisons to find anyone involved in throwing contraband over the walls into the jail.

The drones use thermal imaging too, so it works at night. This work is improving the morale among prison officers and reducing the number of assaults.