Making smart use of SmartWater

23 June 2011  •  Source: British Transport Police

A British Transport Police Scientific Support Unit (SSU) staff member has been given a top award by the SmartWater Foundation for her expertise in the forensic handling of their high-tech crime reduction systems.

Sarah KingSarah King won her Certificate of Excellence Award for helping BTP achieve a 95% hit rate for positive samples submitted to SmartWater for analysis – around 30% more than the national average.

SmartWater is used to mark property with a unique chemical code, assigning items with their own forensic signature. The chemical can only be seen under ultra-violet light and offers more than a billion different chemical code combinations.

Sarah was nominated by scientists from SmartWater’s own lab, who receive hundreds of submissions from the UK police service every year. She has a degree in forensic science from London South Bank University and works in Laboratory Services within BTP’s London based Scientific Support Unit.

“I was very pleased to receive this award,” said Sarah. “This forms part of our screening process designed not only to detect SmartWater, but to maximise forensic recovery from the evidence. Ensuring we only submit items for analysis when SmartWater is present saves time and money.”

Submissions to SmartWater by BTP have mostly been of banknotes from cash in transit robberies. BTP mounted a major operation, codenamed Utopia, around notes being laundered through ticket vending machines, mainly on Docklands Light Railway.

Banknotes stolen in cash in transit robberies are often stained with dye from anti-theft systems, and some couriers include SmartWater in the dye. That allows notes to be traced back to a specific crime.

Having taken the lead for BTP in developing a detailed standard operating procedure for handling SmartWater marked cash, SSU is now developing detailed procedures for recovered cable, as Network Rail is using SmartWater on parts of the network to mark lineside cable. Cable theft on the rail system increased by over 70% in 2010/11.

Chairman of the SmartWater Foundation, Sir Keith Povey QPM, said: “The professional, diligent work of Sarah King stands out as a model of best practice and has played an invaluable role in the successful prosecution and sentencing of many serious offenders. Sarah’s dedication makes her a thoroughly deserving recipient of this award.”

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