Trackside metal theft derailed

Written by Angela Singleton

Selectamark’s distributor, Rhine Group BV, has been awarded the contract by Dutch rail company ProRail BV to combat trackside metal theft using SelectaDNA, an invisible spray solution featuring a unique, synthetic DNA code.

Driven by continuing global demand for metals such as copper, the Netherlands is among many countries including the UK, to struggle with the problem of trackside metal theft, which not only disrupts rail services but also causes substantial damage to signalling equipment, posing serious danger to passengers.

Copper is a fantastically attractive metal to steal. It is often left out in the open on railways and around substations just asking to be stolen. In drumb format, it is easy to move despite copper’s relative weight.

The increased risk of stealing, transporting and handling SelectaDNA-marked copper and other metals is expected to deter thieves and have a significant impact on the number of incidents.

Successful strategy
SelectaDNA is a proven, highly successful crime deterrent strategy and is used by an increasing number of Police forces, residential home owners, businesses, retail outlets, local governments, schools and hospitals in the United Kingdom, New Zealand and The Netherlands. ProRail will be deploying SelectaDNA’s technology to mark trackside metals with the product’s unique DNA signature, which is highly resistant to sunlight, withstands temperatures of up to 1,000°C and can be identified and analysed on the spot.

The unique chemical composition of the marking can be identified with a portable DNA scanner. The DNA marking is immediately visible under ultraviolet (UV) light and contains metal microdots with an engraved coding that can be analyzed with a small USB-microscope.

This technology provides Police with immediate forensic proof of where stolen metal has come from, enabling them to prosecute criminals using an indisputable chain of evidence.

Donald van der Laan, general manager of Rhine Group, said: “When we started to look at the problem of copper theft in 2008 it became obvious to us that solutions that were available at the time had several serious flaws.

“Most importantly, if the presence of a marking on a piece of metal could only be determined under UV light, scrap dealers could be misguided into believing that material that does not ‘light up’ under UV is not stolen – even if it was offered to them by dubious sources.”

Mr van der Laan continued: “Therefore, we set out with our partners to develop smart marking technologies that overcome these flaws, providing a broader toolset to Police and a much more serious deterrent to criminals.”

The detection and analysis technology can also be made available to scrap metal dealers so they can check for markings on metal being offered to them. In the UK, scrap dealers found in possession of railway metal could be charged with handling stolen goods as Network Rail disposes of metal through one national company and it does not use local salvage yards.

Service disruption
In the north-east of England, the Wearside area has been one of the worst hit by gangs who steal metal from train lines and try to sell it for scrap. As well as costing more than £5.2million, the gangs also cause frequent disruption to train services.

Meanwhile, in the north-west, police have been hunting a gang in connection with a string of metal thefts in and around Bolton’s railway network. Detectives working for British Transport Police have been investigating the gang, who they believe have made between £40,000 and £50,000 by selling stolen metal over a six-month period last year after posing as legitimate rail workers.

Detective Sgt Mellish, who is leading the Bolton investigation known as Operation Ariel, has warned that scrap dealers caught trading in stolen railway metal will be prosecuted. He said: “Scrap metal dealers should not be accepting railway scrap. In every case, it will have been stolen.”

For more information

Selectamark Security Systems plc, 1 Locks Court, 429 Crofton Road, Locksbottom, Kent, BR6 8NL.
Tel: +44 (0)1689 860757
Fax: +44 (0)1689 860693.
E-mail: sales@selectamark.co.uk
Web: www.selectadna.co.uk



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