A new public safety pilot program in Huntington Station puts crime-fighting in the hands of residents by providing them with innovative DNA-based technology to mark up property susceptible to burglary.
Last week, Suffolk County Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) was joined by County Executive Steve Bellone (D) and other elected officials in Huntington Station, where a new device manufactured by Stony Brook-based Applied DNA Sciences was introduced as part of a pilot program in the town. The kit called DNANet comes with a special marker that can be used to mark up to 100 valuables and assets in a home in an effort to keep track of goods if stolen or removed from the home.
“When I was approached last year by the scientists at Applied DNA Sciences with this unique technology, it was clear that it has great potential to be an effective tool in keeping communities safer,” Spencer stated in a press release. “Increasing public safety in Huntington Station and all of Suffolk County has always been a central focus of mine. Bringing in this resource will make this great community even better.”
Suffolk County is paying for the pilot program, which will cost $25,000.
The kits will be distributed to 500 homes in Huntington Station in areas with high burglary rates. Residents will be asked to perform in the study, mark up items and register them with the company.
The mark is not visible to the naked eye. A UV lamp will be needed to see the distinctive mark.
“You can’t see it [and] you can’t scratch it off,“ Spencer said in a phone interview Monday.
When items are stolen, burglars tend to trade the goods to pawn shops for quick cash. The new device will also force shop owners to carefully record data when items are pawned.
“Now it will be harder to pawn stolen goods,” Spencer said.
Once an item with the DNA code is run through the website’s database, it will match to a particular person and address. In the past, reuniting goods with an owner has proved to be difficult because there is no proof of ownership, according to Spencer. The mark would help prove ownership, he said.
Spencer hopes this new initiative will help increase item recoveries, theft convictions and decrease low level petit theft.
“This technology is another tool our police can use against crime,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said in a press release. “Our police will be able to address and solve theft of personal property with the information made available by DNAweb.”
According to Spencer, studies show the DNA mark has proven to last up to 350 years. Also if the owner sells an item, a call can be made to have the item removed from the database to prevent confusion.
The program is expected to begin in Huntington Station and Huntington shortly as officials wanted to focus in areas with high crime. The program will be evaluated after six months to see if there has been an improvement in recoveries and convictions. Residents who participate in the program can also put signs on their lawns alerting people the system is in use.
Once the evaluation is over, the Suffolk County Police Department will decide whether to recommend the program expand.