The DNA sprays being used by retailers are a success – they are proving extremely effective at preventing theft. Therefore, several Danish food chains are now installing DNA spray solutions in their shops, even though DNA spray has never been used in investigating crimes or as evidence in a court of law.
In September 2014, the Dansk Supermarked Group (a Danish supermarket chain) installed Selecta DNA spray on a trial basis in nine selected shops in a district of Copenhagen. The system functions by spraying the burglar with DNA fluid as he escapes the shop premises. The liquid contains a unique DNA signature that can be traced back to the individual shop and which adheres to skin and clothing and stands out when exposed to UV light. The hope was that the police could use it when investigating burglaries, and that the new technology would also have a preventive effect – which it undoubtedly has.
– In our experience, the DNA spray has been very effective at deterring burglars. In the nine shops where the system was installed, there has only been one burglary since the solution was implemented. Here, however, due to human error, the spray was not released, says Jess Pedersen, Head of Group Security at the Dansk Supermarked Group.
Based on the positive experience from Copenhagen, the Dansk Supermarked Group has decided to install the system in more of its shops. Ten stores in northern Zealand have already had the system installed, and next stage involves installing it at 30 other shops throughout Denmark.
However, the Dansk Supermarked Group is not the only retailer to have discovered the new technology. Chains such as McDonald’s, 7-Eleven and Coop Danmark have also installed the DNA spray system or plan to do so. Rema 1000 has also embraced the solution, and in 2016 is installing it in all the company’s shops in Denmark.
Both the Rema 1000 shops and the Dansk Supermarked Group’s Netto shops have signs outside at the front and on the windows at the entrance clearly stating that the shop uses DNA spray. It is the preventive effect of the the solution that is so positive.
– Our aim is that burglars give up and walk away on seeing that we use DNA spray. This way, we are also protecting our employees from very disturbing and unpleasant experiences, says Jess Pedersen.
In fact, the preventive effect has been such that it has still not been necessary to investigate a single burglary where the DNA spray has been released. But the methods for using the DNA traces are nevertheless in place.
– We are ready to act and use the traces from the invisible marking. And all the police districts already have UV equipment which is used for many other purposes. If we have a suspect in custody, we can shine UV light on him and remove a sample of the artificial DNA, which we can then take to the company that supplied the solution to identify the shop where the DNA comes from, says Jørn Kjer, who heads the Danish National Police’s national prevention centre.
Ends with confessions
As there have still not been any burglaries in Denmark where the DNA spray has been used, there is some uncertainty regarding how much validity a Danish court will give to using DNA traces as evidence in a court case. And it might be some time before we find out.
– In the cases we have seen in other countries, where people have been confronted with the fact that they have been sprayed with DNA spray, they have quickly confessed to the crime. We also have examples of burglaries from residential properties, where money has been marked with DNA, and when a suspect has been arrested with DNA traces on his fingers, he has confessed his guilt. Thus, the cases there have been have been conducted as cases where the accused pleads guilty without the court considering concrete evidence, says Henrik Olsen, CEO of Unisecure, which manufactures one of the various DNA spray solutions.