DNA Spray – It’s Hard Out There For a Crook

-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger

And it’s getting more difficult with the introduction of DNA spray. DNA spray is an invisible mist dispensed from devices placed in high crime areas. The mist is harmless and visible under UV light and sticks to clothing and the crevasses of the skin. Even after three-a-day showers, the DNA will remain on an offender for weeks. DNA spray provides a unique signature that, after forensic analysis, can irrefutably place the person at the scene of a crime.

The system is popular in Europe and will be coming to the U.S. soon.

Rotterdam police say that none of the locations that have the spray installed have been burglarized. The sprayers come with warning signs that can be placed in windows. The criminals see the warning signs and move on to unprotected businesses or homes. I wonder if they sell a “starter kit” that contains only the signs.

Analysis of the spray just proves the person was present at the scene of a crime, it doesn’t provide evidence that the person committed the crime. It is easy enough for police to check for UV fluorescence without an invasion of privacy.

But is the presence of UV fluorescence reason enough for police to collect a sample that could then be sent to a lab for the required analysis, or would a judge have to issue a warrant? Innocent bystanders might also be contaminated with the spray and would, hence, fluoresce. The police would have to rely on evidence other than UV fluorescence to justify a warrant.

H/T: ABC, SelectaDNA.

30 thoughts on “DNA Spray – It’s Hard Out There For a Crook

  1. and move on to unprotected businesses or homes.

    So it’s the same deal as with CCTVs? Crime is just relocated from areas who can afford such gadgets to poorer areas?

    Well, we all know that poor people have nothing really valuable to loose anyway, so they can deal much better with crime. /s

  2. This might be an interesting way to help bolster falling law enforcement budgets. With the budget crunches being felt at the state and local level it is worth a try. High crime areas in low income areas should not be excluded.

  3. Dearborn Michigan has been using this type of technology since the early 70’s….specifically a spray that puffs in your hand when you pull a fire alarm and is detectable by a special light…….

  4. Nal,

    I have some questions:

    – Is the DNA substance sprayed 24/7? I certainly wouldn’t want to enter a building that sprayed me with a substance that would stick to my clothing and my skin.
    – What about blind people who can’t read signs?
    – Has the DNA spray been tested? Has it been proven that it’s not harmful to humans, animals, clothing?
    – How do the police know which people have been sprayed with the substance in order to test to see if they “fluoresce?”

    *****
    “DNA spray provides a unique signature that, after forensic analysis, can irrefutably place the person at the scene of a crime.”

    But can the spray place the person at the scene of a crime at the time when the crime was committed?

    *****

    There are people who live in high crime areas? Are they going to be subjected to “spraying” because of where they live?

    *****

    “But is the presence of UV fluorescence reason enough for police to collect a sample that could then be sent to a lab for the required analysis, or would a judge have to issue a warrant? Innocent bystanders might also be contaminated with the spray and would, hence, fluoresce. The police would have to rely on evidence other than UV fluorescence to justify a warrant.”

    Right. How helpful could this spray actually be in helping police? This “crime-fighting” idea doesn’t make all that much sense to me.

  5. I can get a cat if I want to get sprayed every day! This is kind of sick. I guess I would have to learn more about the spray, but the idea of walking into a building for a meeting allows someone to spray me with a substance that could be used to claim I was involved in a crime is hard for me to fathom. I agree with Elaine and her questions.
    Isn’t the fact that the police are “scanning” me for the substance an invasion of privacy?
    AY,
    I think Illinois has had those kind of “markers” in their fire alarms for years as well.

  6. 1946– “Of course DDT is safe to spray on your crops. It’s been tested”

    1950– “Of course it’s safe to be in a foxhole 2 miles from the atomic bomb test. Now get a move on, Private.”

    1968– “Of course it’s safe to handle Agent Orange- we all know the reputation of the Dow Chemical Company.”

    2011– “Of course it’s safe. The manufacturer says it’s harmless. And it catches the crooks.”

  7. HenMan,
    Well said! If the Republicans in Congress get their way and defund the EPA, the only information we will have is what the corporation wants us to know!

  8. AY,
    I would be a fish out of water, but thanks! Besides, I think I remember watching someone pull one of those alarms back in college. I might have DNA still on me!

  9. HenMan
    you forgot

    2010-just spray it on the oil spill, don’t worry it’s safe (now give me that camera, no pictures allowed)

  10. Pete-

    Those black clumps all over the sea floor? Don’t worry-they’re harmless. After two years they turn into chocolate cupcakes and float to the surface. Eat all you want- they’re delicious! Brought to you by BP. Serving your energy and snacking needs….responsibly!

  11. MK-

    And what happens to the U.P.S. guy who gets sprayed with DNA juice 53 times a day? Does he get charged with every crime in his city? I hope he has a really good lawyer. And who pays his dry cleaning bill?

  12. If this stuff is sprayed, or probably micro misted, or nano misted, then it will get in people’s eyes, mouths, and be inhaled.

    Any organic molecule that is largish (I think above 50K Daltons) and complex can trigger the production of antibodies.
    So what happens when the white blood cells that live in our mucus membranes and right under the skin, whose job it is to recognize invading molecules, run into chunks of DNA that are probably foreign enough from what they are programed to recognize as “self” and they start producing antibodies to DNA.

    There are many autoimmune diseases (auto = self.) Rheumatoid arthritis is a good example, where the body has started to confuse self with non self and is attacking its own tissues.

    Another example is Strep A that causes strep throat, it closely resembles molecules in a couple of the bodies organs like heart and kidney, and a serious Strep A inflection can cause the body to attack and kill the kidney sand damage heart valves

    So what happens if the “sprayed” and inhaled DNA stimulatess the production of an antibody to our own DNA or RNA.

    Damaged or naturally dying shed cells are routinely cleaned up without a problem. What happens, say after surgery or an injury as simple as a good sized bruise, if that causes an allergic attack on the DNA or RNA in the cellular debris?

    What impact does it have on transplant patients?

  13. Marnie-

    Excellent comment. In spite of my jokes, I find this a truly nightmarish idea. Common sense tells us to not even consider doing this, but common sense is in short supply in America. As we learned after Sept.11, 2001, all you have to do is frighten people and they will meekly and gratefully submit to anything you choose to do to them. How many of our neighbors have basements filled with plastic sheeting, duct tape, bottled water, and beef jerky?

  14. A new way to solve that problem Paul Ehrlich described?

    Or the one that got my attention?

    If no humans, then no violent humans?

    The war to end all wars ended all wars…

    Gaia Hypothesis says, “We had to destroy all humanity to save it.”

    Lt. Calley? Can’t hear you! You, too?

  15. Marnie, I’m happy to say that your concern is pretty baseless. First, antibodies cannot recognise DNA alone, they can only recognise proteins or protein-bound DNA, and since there are no human proteins bound to the spray DNA, this means the body will not recognise it. Second, the DNA spray is made of non-coding DNA that is purely structural and not at all similar to what is found in the human body. Even if an antibody bound to it, it would not be able to then interact with anything that is found in the human body. Third, when cells die or otherwise need to be removed, they are already subject to attack by the body’s immune system. The body is used to dealing with stray pieces of DNA and proteins constantly and I see no reason why it would overreact due to the spray.
    Finally, it’s important to realise that the immune system is constantly being exposed to antigens in the air, dust, food, and countless other sources. Even in the unlikely case that the spray enterred the body, it would neither over-burden the immune system nor be somehow ignored by it; it would be dealt with just like any other chunk of DNA we swallowed.

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