DNA fog released during a break-in coats suspects to identify them later

DNA ‘Fog’ Marks Criminals Invisibly for Later ID
by Jesse Emspak   /  Jun 6, 2013

For years banks have rigged bags of money with exploding dye packs, which show the cash was stolen and mark the thief. Now DNA can do the same job — without the suspect being aware of it. This isn’t using the criminal’s own DNA to track him or her — it’s engineered, artificial gene sequences that act like bar codes. They can be applied to goods or people to uniquely identify them, and be made to glow under certain kinds of light or be read by swabbing them and reading the sequence chemically. DNA marking is already being used on objects for tracking by law enforcement agencies in the United States and the U.K.

The latest version of the technology comes from Stony Brook, N.Y.-based Applied DNA Sciences. It’s called “DNA Fog.” The device fills a room with smoke to confuse an intruder. The smoke isn’t just to make it hard for the person to see; it also contains droplets loaded with DNA. If the person escapes, they are still covered with it, and it’s invisible. The DNA stays on the skin for about two weeks and is hard to wash out of clothing. And even if the burglar ditches her clothes in a dumpster, she’d have to lose the shoes, too. “It’s amazing how many people will dump their clothes but not their shoes,” said Mitchell Warren Miller, director of digital strategy at Applied DNA. The “tag” of DNA lasts about two weeks. Should that person get arrested, police would swab them and read the sample using a chemical process called polymerase chain reaction. PCR amplifies the genetic material, essentially making it easier to spot, and is simple and cheap enough that it can be done by amateurs. If the sequence from Applied DNA shows up, then it’s a good bet they were in the vicinity when the DNA Fog device went off.

The DNA sequence can be altered, so any business that has it can have it’s own unique code — like tagging an intruder with the name and address. It’s an adaptation of a system Applied DNA uses to track goods, by marking them with DNA that glows when exposed to certain kinds of light, except in this case the DNA marks a person invisibly. In the U.K., Selectamark Security Systems’ makes several devices to get a DNA tag onto someone. One is a “defense spray” like pepper spray, which is geared to security guards and police who might want to identify someone who attacked them at close range. Another is a grease and gel that mark door handles or goods.

But perhaps the most sophisticated DNA tagging product is the “high velocity DNA Tagging system” that works as a kind of paintball gun. The gun uses pellets filled with water, DNA and a binding agent to help it stick. The pellet is a polymer that differs from the kind in paintballs, as it has to be strong enough to be jostled around, weak enough to break on impact and most importantly not react with the DNA. SelectaMark currently testing out its pellet gun with several police departments in England, and it will be some months before they decide whether to adopt it.

DNA Gun In Action
SelectaDNA’s high-velocity DNA tagging system is available in both pistol and rifle formats

DNA tags label rioters and other criminals so cops can find them “at a less confrontational time for officers.”
by Rebecca Boyle / 01.28.2013

Riots are a tough nut for law enforcement in part because of the sheer number of people involved–it’s impossible to stop and arrest every person involved in a skirmish. That’s why cops have some pretty high-tech methods for catching suspects, from facial recognition software to debilitating sonic cannons. But none is as bizarre as this new DNA gun from a UK security firm.

The SelectaDNA High Velocity System works like it sounds–it shoots people with pellets containing a unique DNA fingerprint. Unlike rubber-pellet guns, Tasers or tear gas canisters, the technology does not deter or disable the suspect–he or she can get away seemingly unscathed. But later, authorities can track down the suspect and arrest him or her “at a less confrontational time for officers,” according to the company. Portable readers equipped with ultraviolet light scanners would be able to verify the synthetic DNA.

Law enforcement can use DNA pellets to tag individuals with unique DNA code

The pellets come in rifle or pistol form, containing 14 pellets per container. All pellets in a pack have the same DNA code. That means you could tag a lot of people at one event, but you couldn’t necessarily single him or her out in the crowd–so it would still be hard to tell who may have incited a riot, rather than just taken part. Apparently Selectamark (what a name) also makes DNA grease, gel and spray to tag personal belongings or other items. It could conceivably be used to tag money in a bank heist, for instance–instead of a lot of ink exploding in a bag, the would-be robbers would get DNA all over themselves. If it lands on clothing, it won’t do the authorities any good, but if the pellets land on skin, their DNA mark will stay there for up to two weeks, according to the company. The equipment was unveiled at the gun trade show The SHOT Show in Las Vegas.

DNA Anti-Counterfeit Markers 

Plant DNA leaves thieves tainted
by Joseph Milton  /  December 23, 2009

The police are using specially tailored plant DNA to catch thieves who steal money from cash delivery vans, in the latest crime-fighting development in genetic engineering. When cash boxes in delivery vans are opened or moved illegally, dyes are released onto banknotes, but these can be removed using aggressive solvents, making stolen money hard to identify. The adapted plant DNA, called SigNature, is added to the dye, so the cash, criminals and anything else the dye touches are coated in it. Long strands of plant DNA are very difficult to remove, so they persist after the dye has been removed, allowing suspects to be linked directly to the crime scene.

The first criminals to be successfully prosecuted on this type of evidence were convicted in late October. Two men who stole thousands of pounds by intercepting a cash delivery in London were found with SigNature DNA on their skin, clothing and mobile phones as well as on banknotes. They pleaded guilty and were sentenced to up to five years in prison. Over 1,000 such robberies took place in the UK in 2009. To make the tailored DNA, US-based biotech firm Applied DNA Sciences chops up plant DNA and rearranges it, creating unique and easily identifiable DNA “markers”. The tailored DNA is then stabilised – it can survive unaltered for up to 350 years – and added to the dye. Police scan suspects’ clothing and any recovered money using handheld detectors. If DNA is seen, it is extracted and analysed to confirm it matches the marker in the dye. Because the tailored plant DNA has been rearranged, each batch is unique. Different batches are used for each cash shipment, allowing police to trace stolen money to particular currency deliveries, and eliminating the chances of mistaken identity. Loomis, a cash management company which handles about £150bn ($239bn) annually in the UK, is the first company to adopt SigNature DNA marked cash boxes.

Luxury brands turn to DNA for protection / January 08, 2010

A New York state-based company has announced it will be adding genetic material to some high-end products. Applied DNA Sciences, based in Stony Brook, N.Y., said it has reached an agreement to supply a European luxury goods company with DNA markers to protect its products from counterfeiters. The company said the agreement was for a five-year period. Applied DNA would not identify the luxury company, saying only that it’s headquartered in Europe with several product lines. “Proof of authenticity is a central tenet of brand integrity, and there is no better proof than DNA,” Applied DNA president and chief executive James Hayward said in a release. Applied DNA uses botanic DNA, which cannot be copied. The processed DNA solution can be incorporated into fabrics, dyes or glues to create a unique genetic identity for the product. Applied DNA said it will receive a fee for each authentication mark purchased and an additional fee each time it is called on to authenticate the product.

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