Invisible reason ag crime now harder in Tulare County

Corin Hoggard Image
Thursday, January 19, 2017
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Stealing from farmers in Tulare County is about to get harder.

TULARE COUNTY (KFSN) -- Stealing from farmers in Tulare County is about to get harder.

Out of darkness comes light-- in this case, the truth revealed would be a crime against a Tulare County farmer or rancher.

"With a glow in the dark, water-like spray, thieves can be tracked back to the crimes with a unique, mineral-based forensic signature," said Sheriff Mike Boudreaux. "I like to call it a mineral DNA."

The product is actually called SmartWater CSI's forensic coding solution. A single squirt of it leaves an invisible and unmistakable mark lasting at least five years.

The makers say it won't transfer to a human, but they also sell sprayers and other products designed to mark thieves, at least for a while.

"Skin does exfoliate off, so if it's someone who showers regularly 3-4 days it might still be on there," said SmartWater CSI general manager Antonio Arserio.

And you could still see SmartWater on clothes for several washes.

In Great Britain, it recently helped police catch masked jewel thieves. Sheriff Boudreaux hopes it'll help them catch ag thieves his deputies arrest without even knowing the suspects also stole from farmers.

"He comes through the jail and that ultraviolet light shines up that yellow marking from CSI: SmartWater," he said.

SmartWater's makers say it's not toxic and safe around foods. They keep a secure database of users and can identify an owner by the markers within a week.

Tulare County will be the first place in the western United States to put the product to the test. The sheriff's office invested $58,000 to get enough of the spray to protect as many as 1200 farms.

"Our farms are out in rural locations," said Tulare County Farm Bureau executive director Tricia Blattler. "Their proximity to law enforcement and their vulnerability makes them an easy target for crime."

The Tulare County ag crimes unit will demonstrate SmartWater at the World Ag Expo coming up in a few weeks and farmers can sign up to test it out for free.