For the last five years, the world of Cash and Valuables in Transit (CVit) in the United Kingdom has been characterised by a steady, year-on-year rise in violent crime. The field has long been viewed by organised crime and opportunists as the target with the best reward to risk ratio, with unarmed guards working from 3,500 armoured vans across the UK carry around £700 billion around the street of Britain every year. This movement of cash is vital to the functioning of the UK economy with daily impact on cash-dependent businesses like banks and retailers. The problem is so severe that 75% of all CViT attacks take place in the United Kingdom.
DNA marking battles UK Cash in Transit crime
In the past, there has been little to prevent aggressors from targeting guards to steal CViT boxes. I met a young security guard who has been attacked a staggering 23 times over the course of his career. The guard, whose name can’t be mentioned due to privacy concerns, is trained in the martial arts and, remarkably is still working as a guard despite his multiple brushes with death.
Sophisticated measures are in place to have vans followed by the police, and many vans now carry the warning that “police follow this van”. Despite the warning, the real crime deterrent is the security features of the boxes themselves.
The CViT box is designed to prevent thieves from accessing stolen cash, and to ensure that thieves can be tracked and caught if found with or using the cash. The ability to link criminals to stolen cash is precisely what has finally led to the decline of CVIT attacks, since the peak of 1070 attacks in the UK in 2009.
Law Enforcement Technology at work
CViT boxes have been honed to be strong yet light enough to carry, technologically sophisticated yet user friendly. The core defence is a cash staining dye within the box, a highly corrosive ink originally designed to destroy the cash, but is now predominantly used to indelibly mark the cash and make it difficult to use. The unique taggants recently introduced in the UK provide the vital missing link between causing a mere nuisance for criminals, and actually allowing for convictions. When boxes are detonated, dye containing a unique DNA code is released onto the notes. Once the DNA makes contact with notes, it cannot be removed. Similarly, if the dye and DNA land on skin or other property, the DNA binds for up to 350 years.
In 2010, one gang who alone were responsible for 23 raids in the London area were caught and prosecuted using taggants. Now DNA has been used to identify and successfully prosecute 16 criminals who have been sentenced to an aggregate 122 years in prison.
DNA Taggants: a watershed moment
Taggants have created a watershed moment in the fight against CViT crime, in October 2010 Applied DNA Sciences became the first non-police organisation to win an ACPO award for Excellence in Policing, alongside Lancashire Police, for convicting the criminals responsible for shooting a Loomis security guard in Blackburn. CViT statistics have dropped for the first time in years. International interest is now focused on the UK and how taggants have impacted the fight against the CViT plague.
Applied DNA Sciences has expanded its use of SigNature DNA technology against robberies of banks, both at tellers and ATMs, most recently with security giant 3SI. Why is this technology so critical?
A blog post by Security InfoWatch blogger GEOFF KOHL gives us some great insight and has important information every security specialist should know.
According to the FBI, there were 5,086 bank robberies in the U.S. last year. That is down slightly year over year, but the monetary losses, and human victimization costs such as medical treatment and psychological damage from these attacks are still sky high. In certain areas, such as smaller communities, in-bank robbery continues to increase.
But apparently these are no longer ready for prime time; that’s seemingly reserved for computer hackers trying to break into online banking systems.
In 2011, direct monetary losses from in-bank robbery came to something north of $38 million in the U.S. Of that amount, only about $8 million was recovered. Eighty percent of stolen cash is lost. How can that be in an era when surveillance cameras are widespread in every city (and were used in 97% of robbery incidents), police-connected alarm systems are everywhere (activated in 89.5% of incidents), and when tracking technology seems to have been sharpened to a fine point? The truth is, we can see who is committing the crimes and police are clearing them at a record rate. But the criminals are not being linked to the evidence of their crime, in this case, the stolen cash.
The reality is that only 24% of the institutions involved had smoke and dye packs available, like the kind used by 3SI Security and others, now expanding to include our SigNature DNA evidence-marking system. Still fewer, 5.4%, had functioning electronic tracking devices. These technologies and others like them combine to produce powerful deterrence in some of the most vulnerable parts of Europe and sorely need to be considered.
Almost half of the 2011 loss was in the form of cargo theft--robbery or hijacking of goods en route to or from distribution centers. The figure also includes shoplifting-- which is now occurring in an organized and massive way--returns scams, credit card fraud, bar code switching, and insider schemes, as well as in-store robbery and burglary.
But it is more than the number of crimes that have retailers concerned: the nature of retail theft has changed dramatically since the economic crisis of 2007-8. Organized crime is much more systematically involved, violent crime is on an upswing, and the internet plays an ever-increasing role as an outlet to “fence” stolen goods.
Still, despite the increase in volume and violence in attacks, big strides have been made by retailers in working closely with law enforcement. With senior executives tuned in to the problem, and new approaches such as problem-oriented-policing, retailers are adopting new tools that will aid police in tracking and convicting criminals—and deterring future crimes as a result.
Those tools include effective new video systems, “lo-jack”-like tracking technology, and Applied DNA Sciences' smartDNA anti-intruder marking spray and evidence marking. The high-tech smartDNA spray douses a fleeing offender with a long-lasting DNA-marked fluorescing dye. As the crime is investigated, the fluorescing DNA mark assists police in linking the offender and stolen items to a specific crime scene.
More stolen goods are being recovered, due to better cooperation with law enforcement
Some NRF crime report highlights:
Top retail crime cities: Los Angeles, Miami, New York and Dallas. Making the top-ten list for the first time are Las Vegas and Phoenix.
Nearly six in ten senior loss prevention executives say their senior management understands the severity of the problem, a big step up from the 39 percent reported in 2005.
Companies are allocating more resources – including personnel and greater investment in technology – to combat the problem.
Among the top targets for theft: designer clothing, handbags, infant formula, over-the-counter drugs, the latest “i” devices, and gift cards.
An important trend for retailers: more goods are being recovered from physical and online fence locations, thanks to better cooperation with law enforcement and new technologies. This has made evidence marking more effective than ever in attaining convictions of the guilty, and therefore in deterring crime.
Applied DNA Sciences' smartDNA evidence marking works to microscopically mark cash and high value items in a way that is extremely difficult to detect or remove, and that links the evidence directly to a crime scene. DNA evidence marking from Applied DNA Sciences is used on over a quarter of all the cash being moved to and from banks in the United Kingdom, which suffers the highest rate of cash in transit crime in Europe.