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Why install video when you can spray thieves with DNA? The Brits are doing it, will you?

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

I spend a good amount of time writing about video surveillance and its use to prevent, but more often prosecute crimes. And while there has been significant advancements in this technology, from video analytics to reduction in cost which makes it more accessible to smaller businesses and the growing residential market, it's the same basic premise, really.

So when I read this article on AOL News, I couldn't help but wonder if the Brits were onto something. This article notes a growing trend for retailers and banks across the U.K., Europe and New Zealand to deploy a gadget called SelectaDNA Spray. Here are some details:

SelectaDNA Spray is a canister loaded with a harmless solution containing synthetic DNA. If a criminal attempts to burgle a premises fitted with the device, an employee can hit a panic button that alerts police to a crime in progress and simultaneously shoots out a fine mist covering everyone in the room, including the robber. And as each batch of the spray -- which glows blue under ultraviolet light -- has a unique DNA signature, police can connect the robber to the scene of the crime.

And here's another interesting tid bit: Almost everyone arrested in the U.K. is scanned with a UV light, no matter what crime the person is suspected of. Didn't know. Is that a common practice here in the U.S.?

But, like a lot of security technologies, the spray isn't only intended to capture criminals, but also to deter them from committing a crime. "Retailers are investing in this technology because they want to move the crime on somewhere else," said Andrew Knights, managing director of SelectaDNA. "They are just out to protect their property and staff." That's why every business that uses a SelectaDNA spray also prominently displays a bright yellow sign in their window showing a stick man with a bag of swag being hit by the mist. "Warning," the sign reads. "SelectaDNA spray installed here."

This article mentions a high usage of this product by retailers, but I have some doubts. If I were a retailer, I would be immediately concerned about installing anything that has potential to spray stuff on my merchandise. It could be hard to sell clothes that glow under ultraviolet light, unless of course your target audience are clubgoers - they may actually dig that.

But what do you think about such a product? Legit or fad? Wanna take bets on whether it will enter the U.S. market or not?