“Protech DNA is essentially DNA for your stuff,” said Jim Wright, CERT Volunteer Coordinator for the city of Gulfport. Protech DNA is a gel-like adhesive, applied to an item. Within the forensic adhesive is are numbered microdots, with a personalized pin number unique to the owner. If a stolen piece of property is recovered, police can use a magnifying glass to look at the tag and reunite the owner with the item.
Protech DNA labels are invisible to the naked eye, meaning thieves can’t remove the tags. The company has been in business for six years, but Gulfport Police have only recently started using the technology.
“Let’s take a camera, for example” said Jim Wright. “If three cameras end up at Gulfport Police and you don’t have the serial number, how would you know for certain, which one was yours? You probably wouldn’t know.”
Wright explained, “I use Pinellas County Sheriff’s Department as an example. There’s literally thousands upon thousands of items, but they can’t get them back to the owners because they don’t know who the owner is.” Protech DNA changes that.
After signing up online for Protech, users will receive a kit in the mail containing the glue. The owner simply swabs it on their items.
Once the glue has been applied to valuables, Protech recommends that a description, make, model, serial number be entered into the International Asset Registry for Law Enforcement (IARLE). Doing this can increase the chances of property being returned to the owner by 50%, according to Protech DNA’s website.
When police recover stolen property, they will electronically catalog the item, connecting the item with the information entered into the IARLE database. At this point, not only will law enforcement see the IARLE registration, they can also use in-house technology to find the Protech DNA label. This process is called Connecting The Dots and provides law enforcement with two ways of verifying item ownership.
The kit is free, aside from a $4.99 shipping cost, and easy to register for online. After registering, users have the option of adding window warning decal ($1.50) or a DNA warning label ($1) to their order. The idea is that stickers will deter thieves, but the DNA warning sticker goes one step further. The DNA label can be put on bikes or other large items, reading, “This item is forensically marked with DNA to verify ownership.” When the label is removed, typically by the thief, it leaves behind adhesive that contains the owner’s Protech pin number.
“In the event of an unfortunate theft, it aids in recovery,” said Jim Wright. “And that’s the main thing.”
For more information about Protech, visit the company’s website at protechdna.com or attend a weekly Neighborhood Crime Watch meeting, held at 7 p.m. on Wednesdays at rotating locations. For a full list of meetings, visit gulfportpolice.com/crime-prevention.html.