Five hundred Huntington Station residents will get kits for spreading plant DNA on property as part of a county pilot program to combat burglaries.
The Suffolk legislature on Tuesday night approved $25,000 to purchase the markers from the Stony Brook-based Applied DNA Sciences. The company will provide training to the Suffolk County Police Department on using the kits and install signs in neighborhoods marking them as "DNA protected" areas.
The kits provide a liquid marker containing DNA strands that's invisible to the eye but glows bright red under ultraviolet light. Homeowners would register each DNA strand with the company, so it could be tracked back to the owner if police recover stolen items, said Applied DNA Sciences director Michael Nizich.
He said the company will provide the kits for the pilot program at a discounted rate -- their retail price would total about $35,000 -- forgoing a profit. Each kit can mark 100 to 150 items and homeowners will not have to pay to register DNA strands.
Suffolk County Legis. William Spencer (D-Centerport), sponsor of the funding measure, said the company and police will work together to determine where in Huntington Station to distribute the kits.
"We're looking at areas of higher thefts and larcenies," Spencer said. The police department is required to report to lawmakers on the effectiveness of the pilot program in six months.
Legis. Kate Browning (WF-Shirley) said the Applied DNA Sciences should do the pilot program for free and questioned how county lawmakers will know if the technology works.
"If no one gets robbed, how do you measure success?" she said. "We are using county money for a pilot to boost a private enterprise."
Judy Murrah, Applied DNA Science's chief information officer, said the company is partnering with other police departments in the United States, and that its technology has been used in Europe.
Asked about providing the kits for free, Murrah noted that the startup company, founded in 2006, has not yet turned a profit. "We're hoping to prove it in places like Suffolk County," she said.