The Tulare County Sheriff’s Office is offering free kits to 1,200 farmers to mark their property with “mineral DNA” that could make it easier to trace stolen property – and even catch the thief.
Sheriff Mike Boudreaux rolled out the program Wednesday at the International Agri-Center in Tulare.
“One of my primary goals is to do everything we can to protect our agricultural partners,” Boudreaux said. The product is “an innovative, cutting-edge material. … It actually links criminals to stolen property. … I call it mineral DNA.”
Burglaries drop in areas where it’s used, he said. The Tulare County Sheriff’s Office is the first law enforcement agency in the western United States to urge its use, he said.
To fund the program, Boudreaux is using $58,000 of asset forfeiture money.
It actually links criminals to stolen property.
Mike Boudreaux, Tulare County sheriff
The brand name of the forensic coding system is SmartWater CSI. It is painted onto tools and equipment but can only be seen under a special ultraviolet light.
Each numbered vial contains rare earth metals such as palladium, platinum and rhodium in unique proportions. When police recover stolen property and discover under ultraviolet light that it has been marked using the forensic coding system, they can send a small sample to a lab where the registered owner can be identified.
Farm manager John Jiles of Delano said he’s interested because “we have so much stolen. I think it’s going to be a good tool to have.”
The material stays on equipment for five years or more, and it rubs off on clothing and skin when someone such as a thief comes into contact with it.
“It’s a silent witness,” Boudreaux said.
If police detect it on the skin or clothing of a suspect, a sample can be sent to the lab to find out who the registered owner is and where a burglary may have occurred, he said.
An ultraviolet light has already been installed at the Tulare County jail, Boudreaux said. From now on, everyone booked will be checked, he said.
It’s a legal search under the law, he said.
The substance will stay on a person’s skin for three to four days, but more advanced formulations will stay on longer. The company also offers a spray mister that activates when a locked equipment shed is broken into, for instance.
Farmers in Tulare County can sign up for a free kit at the annual farm show Feb. 14-16 at the International Agri-Center in Tulare. Each vial is enough to mark about 50 items.
Homeowner can get the product, too. The cost is $4.99 a month, said Antonio Arserio, general manager of the company’s United States headquarters in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Commercial prices are higher.
Farmers in Tulare County can sign up for a free kit at the annual farm show Feb. 14-16 at the Agri-Center in Tulare.