ATM thieves to be tracked by invisible 'smart gel' traceable for up to five years

Co-operative cash machines to be fitted with invisible forensic spray to catch criminals.iStock

The Co-operative group is implementing forensic technology to crackdown on cashpoint criminals. The retail chain will be adding an invisible gel spray to around 2,500 Co-op automated teller machines (ATMs) that brands pesky thieves for as much as five years.

The gel, created by forensic tech company SmartWater, can be detected on both clothing and human skin with forensic tools capable of tracing the culprit back to their prior criminal acts years later - even if the amount of gel is microscopic.

A trial run of the technology in 2016 led to a 90% reduction in crime at ATMs, reports The Independent, leading Co-op to roll out the scheme across the UK.

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The Co-op group noted that crimes connected to ATMs are most common in the North West, with the UK capital city of London coming in second.

The latter was particularly notable for the high volume of "black box" attacks where a laptop or other devices are physically connected to cash machines and hacked to spew out bank notes.

SmartWater's forensic technology has also been adopted by Metropolitan Police. "All custody areas have suitable detectors fitted, with all prisoners routinely scanned and hundreds of patrol staff have been both equipped and trained to detect it", said Iain Raphael, Detective Chief Superintendent and Enfield Borough Commander.

"We welcome any crime prevention initiative such as this that can benefit from our ongoing work with SmartWater and criminals contemplating attacks on Co-op ATMs should take note".

As part of the initiative, Met Police is hoping to visit homes across London and provide "crime-detecting kits" to residents for free in a move aimed at "reducing household burglary".

"At the forefront of combating ATM crime this proven technology utilises the latest ATM security capabilities and innovations to cut crime, providing a safer and secure way to deliver a key and convenient service in local communities," said Chris Whitfield, director of retail and logistics at Co-operative.

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