High tech solution to 'tag' Wakefield burglars and bar brawlers rolls out (26 Apr 2019)

A high-tech traceable liquid is to be used to provide full spectrum crime protection for shops, pubs and revellers in Wakefield city centre.

Wakefield Police and Wakefield BID are to supply the clear, colourless SmartWater solution to selected Night Marshals operating in city centre pubs and bars which they can use to 'tag' persons they witness involved in serious incidents, such as violent offences, in the evening economy.

SmartWater packs are also to being given to businesses in the Wakefield BID area, while a number of mobile SmartWater spray systems will also be deployed to premises affected by burglary.

Wakefield BID is fully funding the initiative which marks a significant widening of the use of SmartWater in Wakefield, and is thought to be the first time in Britain that the solution has been deployed in a city centre BID area.

Under the scheme, which launched this week, around 50 businesses will be provided with SmartWater packs this year, including signage making it clear to thieves that products are now protected by the solution and can be traced.

A number of mobile SmartWater spray systems will also be offered to businesses which have been affected by burglary. The systems are designed to activate if a building is broken into, spraying a suspect with the solution and therefore directly linking them to the offence.

The widening use of the spray will run alongside its continued use in tagging cans of higher strength alcohol, allowing police to trace beers consumed by street drinkers back to the shops it was bought from.

Instances of anti-social behaviour fell by 60 per cent during the first six weeks of the alcohol tagging scheme, which received widespread support from retailers.

It also resulted in several shops voluntarily removing higher strength alcohol from their shelves altogether.

The Wakefield BID (Business Improvement District) was formed in 2017 with the aim of improving the city centre as a place to visit, do business and live.

Chief Superintendent Paul Hepworth, District Commander of Wakefield Police, said: "SmartWater has been in use in Wakefield District since last year, and this new deployment marks its widest ever use in our city.

"Each vial of SmartWater has a unique chemical code which means that persons sprayed with it can be traced directly back to the incident in which it was deployed.

"This means that if a thief is sprayed with the solution when breaking into a shop, or a man involved in a pub fight is sprayed by door staff, the Smartwater on their clothes and or skin can be directly linked to the incident in which it was deployed, proving they were present and involved.

"Products such as these, and the body worn video officers and Night Marshalls deploy with, can be very important in establishing a suspect's guilt at court."

Elizabeth Murphy, Manager of Wakefield BID, said: "We want to send out a clear message that Wakefield city centre is open for business and closed to criminals. We know we will never 100% eradicate crime, but we need to reduce it and the schemes we ran before Christmas in our can tagging trials had real impact on anti-social behaviour. We also trialled some in-store product tagging to deter thieves and this saw a huge reduction in thefts during that time.

"The perception and impact of crime is high on the list of concerns of our businesses, so we are taking action using new technology to tackle this. The BID isn't here to replace the police, but given the cut our force has faced it makes sense to support them in any way we can to deter and detect crime."

Inspector Helen Brear of Wakefield Central NPT said officers had found that the use of SmartWater signage in Wakefield and elsewhere had proved to be an important factor in lowering instances of shoplifting. She said: "The feedback from participating retailers has been very positive with one retailer noticing in excess of 90 per cent reduction in shop theft in December 2018 compared to December from the year before.

"It is one of a range of crime prevention programmes we have been carrying out with Wakefield BID including the revitalisation of the store radio network, and the distribution of a 'criminals catalogue' to stores to help them pinpoint known offenders."

Chief Superintendent Hepworth added use of SmartWater in the night time economy would also be strictly regulated.

"The solution will only be carried by specially trained Night Marshalls, and those staff will also wear armbands identifying them as carrying SmartWater. It will also only be deployed when appropriate in serious incidents and not just in any scenario where there is a confrontation," he said. "The use of the solution by door staff, really does illustrate the innovate work we have been carrying out with Wakefield BID to protect retailers and reduce crime in the city centre since 2017."

West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Mark Burns-Williamson said:

"The latest crime figures for West Yorkshire show a reduction in burglary across West Yorkshire and innovations such as this will help to continue in that trend.

"One of the key outcomes of my Police and Crime Plan is to tackle anti-social behaviour and the extended use of SmartWater will go even further to keeping people safe and feeling safe.

"Having recently visited some of our local Neighbourhood Policing Teams in the Wakefield District, I am acutely aware of the issues facing our towns and cities and the importance of supporting our business community in challenging times.

"Only through working in partnership and exploiting the latest advancements in crime fighting can we effectively tackle these issues on the ground and I am pledging my full support to this collaborative approach with Wakefield BID who I applaud for their involvement and support with this initiative."

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© Copyright West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner 2019