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Suffolk to test DNA kits to deter, solve property crimes

Applied DNA Sciences CEO James Hayward shines UV

Applied DNA Sciences CEO James Hayward shines UV light on his watch, which he marked using one of his company's DNA Marking Kits, during a press conference at the Huntington Opportunity Resource Center in Huntington Station Friday, April 10, 2015. Credit: Barry Sloan

Applied DNA Sciences Inc., a Stony Brook biotech company that makes anti-counterfeiting products using plant DNA, is partnering with Suffolk County officials to bring DNA technology into 500 homes in Huntington Station.

Speaking at a news conference Friday, Legis. William "Doc" Spencer (D-Centerport) said his district intends to use Applied DNA's proprietary technology to aid in the fight against property theft. The company's product, DNAnet, allows users to apply small traces of plant DNA to valuable items such as electronics and jewelry. After a burglary, if the items are recovered, the unique DNA markers -- which the company said can last as long as 350 years -- give police the ability to reunite owners with their stolen goods, and better link criminals to crimes.

Included in the 500 DNA kits to be distributed will be window decals that say "DNA protected home" for homeowners to display.

"The notion is to provide a series of benefits: protect valuables within the home, which are now carrying a molecular identity; help deter crime, and really, for the very first time, enable the return of stolen property to the rightful owner," said James A. Hayward, president and CEO of Applied DNA.

The rollout is part of a planned six-month pilot program intended to help police evaluate the effectiveness of the technology, and will come at no direct cost to participating homeowners. Spencer said he will be submitting a proposal for the program -- estimated to cost the county less than $25,000 -- in late April, and expects the pilot to begin this summer.

Hayward said the Suffolk program represents the company's first application of its home-asset marking technology in the United States. More than 3,000 homes in Europe have used the kits, he said.

Spencer said police and county officials will need to "work out some of the kinks" of the program in advance of its start, but he added that it will allow them to "test the waters, make adjustments and see if it's something that we can utilize on a larger scale."

Each kit comes with a liquid applicator with enough DNA to mark up to 100 items. Property owners can then register their unique DNA identity online. Using UV lights, officers can quickly determine if an item has been marked, send it to Applied DNA for analysis, and locate theft victims.

To determine which Huntington Station homes will be eligible to receive the free DNAnet kits, police officials said they will analyze crime statistics to identify neighborhoods that would be best served by having the technology.


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