Tagging Bank Robbers With DNA Fog
What’s the Latest Development?
Explosive dye packs are so 20th-Century: A new method for catching bank robbers involves rigging a vault with a device that fills it with smoke if an unauthorized person enters. What’s special about this smoke is that it contains artificial DNA that invisibly coats the person’s skin, clothing, and even their shoes. Even if they dump their clothes and shoes, they’d better plan to stay out of sight for the next two weeks, because that’s how long the DNA remains on their skin. If they are arrested, a simple swab and analysis will identify them. The DNA can be customized for individual businesses as well, in case the robber had a busy night.
What’s the Big Idea?
It’s the latest advance in DNA tagging, which is increasingly being adopted as a relatively foolproof solution to theft. The room-filling fog was developed by New York-based Applied DNA Sequences, and UK-based Selectamark Security Systems makes, among other things, substances that can be put on goods and door handles. The two companies use different types of artificial DNA, and because the number of different combinations fall somewhere in the trillions, they’re extremely hard to copy. Mitchell Warren Miller, director at Applied DNA, sums up the benefits of his product simply: Most anti-theft methods “are good at repelling people [but] they aren’t very good at apprehending them.”
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