Police and city officials and Middletown landlords are hoping a high-tech product helps drown out theft in the city.
Middletown Police recently introduced SmartWater — a forensically coded liquid that residents and businesses can use to mark valuables — to a Middletown landlord’s association.
The markings only can be traced with a black light, according to landlord Dan Tracy, who owns more than 100 properties in the city.
If a stolen item is resold, the person or business who bought the item can send a sample of the SmartWater’s DNA to a lab. Since every bottle has a specific code, the original owner can be located, he said.
Maj. Mark Hoffman called SmartWater “another tool” in the city’s ongoing effort to reduce thefts in Middletown.
There were 2,322 thefts in the city last year, down 16 percent from the 2,760 in 2014, according to Hoffman.
For landlords, items like air conditioning units — most worth thousands of dollars — are popular items for thieves to steal and then scrap the metal.
Because of that, Tracy said SmartWater is a welcome crime-fighting tool.
“This is the best thing since bottled water,” he said, noting that markings stay on items for about five years.
He compared the technology to thieves knowing that a store clerk has a loaded gun under the cash register.
“This is a deterrent,” he said. “This is a no-brainer, a major break-through.”
Several cities in Florida reported a 70 percent to 75 percent drop in burglaries after residents and business used SmartWater, according to Hoffman
“That would be impressive wouldn’t it,” Hoffman said, thinking about such a substantial drop in thefts locally.
Since December 2013, police in Boynton, Fla., have distributed SmartWater kits to residents and businesses throughout the city, according to the Palm Beach Post.
Since then, the newspaper reported, not one home that has the crime-fighting tool has been burglarized.
Tracy has experienced the cost of being a victim of a theft. During the past three years, thieves have stolen or damaged 18 of the central air conditioning units at his rental homes, and 10 homes have been stripped of their copper and 10 others have had wiring stolen, he said.
Each of the air conditioner units are valued at $15,000 to $20,000 and when they’re sold to scrap yards, the thieves get $40 to $60, Tracy said, adding that he no longer replaces air conditioner units.
“We don’t want this type of crime in Middletown,” he said.
If the use of SmartWater helps to lower theft rates in the city, residents’ insurance premiums could become lower, Tracy said.
“People will still steal,” he said. “But they will get caught. This is like having their fingerprint. I can’t wait until we nail somebody. Once the word gets out, we will see a drop.”
A vial of SmartWater is about as big as a tube of lip gloss and has a retail price of about $150.
With grants from the city and police department, Tracy is hoping the product will cost less than $50 per vial.
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