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Magic marker aims to curb school burglaries

Magic marker aims to curb school burglaries

Hora Hora Primary School principal Pat Newman lights up a DNA solution, used to mark property, with a UV torch.

From: The Northern Advocate, WHANGAREI

A banker, a businessman and a policeman walk into a room full of school principals and pitch a novel idea to stop school burglaries.

The businessman told the principals about a product he has for forensically marking property with an invisible DNA solution, the policeman said this will be a great way to prevent crimes and catch criminals, and the banker offered to pay for it all.

No joke, it actually happened.

Launching the Northland Schools Burglary Prevention programme at Hora Hora Primary School yesterday, SelectaDNA director David Morrissey welcomed the assembled school principals and gave a quick demonstration of how his product works.

School property, like computers and televisions, are marked with a small amount of an invisible solution with a unique DNA code.

Visible under ultra-violet light, the code identifies the property owner in the event of theft, thus making it harder for thieves and receivers of stolen goods to avoid the law.

A kit containing a bottle of solution, a UV light, an instruction CD and a stack of warning stickers will be given free of charge to every school in Northland, thanks to the sponsorship of the Bank of New Zealand.

BNZ's national manager of security and fraud Owen Loeffellechner said the bank saw the partnership as an excellent way to reduce crime and protect schools.

After Northland, the bank intends to give a DNA kit to every school in New Zealand.

Northland Police District Commander Superintendent Russell Le Prou said the initiative was an "absolute deterrent to criminals", as the chance of getting caught stealing or receiving stolen goods from a school will become much higher. Trials amongst Rotorua schools last year saw burglaries drop 45 per cent, Mr Le Prou said.

"As if we need an example, it was only a few months ago that Hora Hora Primary School was burgled and 25 laptops were stolen, and there are other examples in our local area."

Northland police recorded 156 burglaries and unlawful entries at educational institutes in the year ending June 2011 and Whangarei police estimate they respond to one school burglary every week.

Hora Hora principal Pat Newman said thieves stole laptops worth $30,000 dollars on New Year's Day. Still waiting for replacement computers three months later, Mr Newman said school burglaries hurt the whole community, as much of the equipment was acquired through community fundraising.

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