Bremen coating valuables with synthetic DNA to fight theft

Bremen coating valuables with synthetic DNA to fight theft
Photo: DPA
The city-state of Bremen plans to be the first place in Germany to use synthetic DNA on valuables to trace thieves, daily Berliner Morgenpost reported this week.

“Valuable objects can be individually marked with the invisible liquid substance and be matched to the owner and returned in the case of theft,” the paper reported on Wednesday.

While authorities won’t claim they are related, Bremen residents have the highest per capita debt and the city tops the country’s statistics for “theft under aggravated circumstances,” which includes robbery, and auto or bicycle theft.

Bremen now hopes to fight crime by emulating the UK and the Netherlands, which already use synthetic DNA to trace things like jewellery, the paper reported. The city-state has chosen at-risk neighbourhoods for a pilot project that includes attaching signs to windows that read, “Beware: DNA protection. Thieves will be convicted in no time.”

The invisible substance can be uniquely coded and remains attached to objects permanently. If someone touches it, traces remain on their skin for some six weeks and can be detected using UV light.

“Break-ins have gone down to almost zero in a similar London project,” the paper reported.

In a survey of 101 UK inmates, 91 percent said they knew of the synthetic DNA, and 74 percent said it would deter them from committing a theft, Berliner Morgenpost said.

But while the number of thefts has been reduced by using the synthetic DNA in some neighbourhoods, it went up in others as criminals simply went elsewhere to do business, the paper said.

The new technology might also have been useful in the ongoing investigation of the January 25 jewellery theft from Berlin’s famous luxury department store KaDeWe.

Investigators have found that DNA from the crime scene could be difficult to use as evidence because the two main suspects are twins, newsmagazine Der Spiegel reported on Tuesday. If they are identical twins, current law enforcement technology won’t be able to tell their DNA apart, the magazine said.