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Police equip store security staff with DNA spray

A UK police force is giving shopkeepers and retail security staff in its area an indelible DNA "marking spray" to target prolific shoplifters from a safe distance.

The sprays, which cannot be washed off and have a unique identifier that shows up under UV light, have been issued by Merseyside Police to be targeted at store thieves attempting to leave the stores without paying.

Once sprayed, a suspected offender is forensically linked to a crime.

Merseyside Police and Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Emily Spurrell said she hoped the scheme would work as a "deterrent" to potential thieves.

"It's about how we can prevent shoplifting from happening and also support our frontline staff and security staff," she said.

"Unfortunately, we have seen incidents where there has been violence and abuse against staff in retail shops, so we wanted to try and prevent that from happening," she said.

The sprays, which can be used from a distance of 16.4ft (5m), can only be used by specially-trained security guards and staff.

Over one-hundred SelectaDNA spray kits have been given to retail businesses in Liverpool as part a wider group of initiatives to support businesses in tackling crime and are funded by the PCC.

Merseyside Police Sgt Craig Winstanley said the sprays, which have previously been used by the force in a crackdown on anti-social off-road motorbikes, were "a great tool".

"The opportunity to forensically link somebody to a particular crime will hopefully enhance our opportunities to get a positive outcome," he said.

"Unique DNA coding can be used along with other investigative lines of enquiry such as CCTV and witness statements to help achieve the evidential threshold to put people before the courts". 

Ms Spurrell said the spray, which can remain on skin for several weeks, was harmless and gave officers "physical evidence" to connect a person to a crime and increase the chance of a successful conviction in court.

She said the move to equip shopkeepers with the sprays was "a clear message" to potential thieves.

The pilot has been launched as part of Merseyside Police's Safer Business Action Day. 

Other schemes include the rollout of a QR code reporting system to help police identify shoplifting hotspots.

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