Farm Progress

Tulare County, Calif. offers CSI marking materials for farm equipment. Other county law enforcement agencies considering the technology.

January 4, 2018

3 Min Read
A unique-identifier liquid can be applied to property, leaving a mark that can be viewed with special lights, as seen here. This material can help identify stolen property and return it to the owner. It's also beneficial in aiding convictions.

Detectives in California’s Tulare County are continuing to promote a new technology they hope will act more as a deterrent than a means to capture criminals with ill-gotten goods.

The Smartwater CSI technology is a means of marking property with a solution that only shows up under special lights available to law enforcement who utilize the technology. Even more intriguing about the technology is its DNA-like coding that, once registered, can link stolen property back to the owner if it was tagged with the solution.

It does this through a unique chemical signature within an odorless, colorless liquid that can be registered to individuals or companies, depending on the volume of material used. The technology allows it to be forensically traced and admissible in court.

Deputies recently showcased the technology with a small group of Tulare County citrus farmers, who were given an opportunity to try it at no cost to them and with no strings attached.

About a year ago Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux began using the technology, providing it to farmers and ranchers to mark their tools, tractors and other implements. Since then over 400 kits have been provided to growers, which Detective John Nicholson says has been “successful” in returning stolen property.

Deputies have specialized lights in their vehicles that can detect the material on items such as power tools, firearms and anything else marked with the substance, which can be sprayed on, or dabbed on with an applicator. Boudreaux’s department provides the dab-on applicators free-of-charge, along with helping farmers to know where to place the materials, signage and other protective measures.

Nicholson says other California sheriffs have indicated interest in the technology, though some at first were skeptical of its usefulness. That skepticism seems to be waning as several agencies in agricultural areas of the state may soon employ the technology.

“Find out if your county is offering this, and if they’re not, ask your sheriff or local agency to do so,” he said.

As knowledge of the technology spreads among criminals, Nicholson says simple signage on shops, tractors and buildings appears to be acting as a deterrent. He also says that defendants tied to the use of this technology will tend to plead guilty to their crimes once the evidence from the Smartwater CSI is made known in court.

The same special lights that deputies have in their vehicles are also installed in the booking center at the Tulare County Jail. These lights can detect the glow of the material left behind on clothing and shoes from industrial sprayers that can be installed in shop buildings or other locations growers wish to protect. Because the material can be forensically linked to a specific person, criminals found with the material on their skin or clothing can likewise be linked to specific crimes.

Tulare County growers can contact the local sheriff’s department at 559-636-4625. Those in other jurisdictions should contact their local authorities to see if the technology is available.

Information is also available online, or by calling (954) 320-7313.

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