Metro unveils new weapon in the fight against cable theft

Andy Bairstow, Communications Director and David Hogg, Metro Security Manager
16 March 2009

Metro has joined forces with Northumbria Police to issue a stark warning to thieves who target sensitive trackside equipment – Metro property is now marked with an invisible forensic coding system called SmartWater.

Andy Bairstow, Communications Director and David Hogg, Metro Security Manager.SmartWater is being used on Metro to crackdown on cable theft, which causes delays for passengers and substantial repair costs. In the last three years Metro has been hit by 17 separate incidents of cable theft. The repair bill totals £56,000.

SmartWater is a colourless chemical solution, which carries its own forensic signature, similar to DNA, and is being used to protect 58 kilometres of Metro track, which is owned and managed by Nexus.

The solution is virtually impossible to remove and is invisible to the naked eye but fluoresces under ultraviolet (UV) light. The forensic signature it contains can be used by the police to link property to its owners and criminals to the crime scene.

Metro has coated trackside equipment with the SmartWater solution and Northumbria Police officers are equipping themselves with UV scanning devices which they will be able to use to search for traces of SmartWater.

Recyclers EMR and SITA UK are actively scanning for traces of SmartWater with UV lighting and are also refusing to handle any metal marked with SmartWater in an effort to stamp out this type of theft. All of this spells bad news for thieves looking to try and sell on stolen metals.

SmartWater is being increasingly used in the railway industry in an effort to reduce incidents of metal theft. This is the first time the technology has been used in this way in the North East.

Nationally, SmartWater has so far secured over 500 criminal convictions, maintaining a 100 percent conviction rate when used as evidence in court.

Criminals know that if they are caught with evidence of having been in direct contact with SmartWater, or handling objects coded by it, there is a strong likelihood they will be prosecuted and convicted.

Acting Insp Tim Hand, of the Northumbria Police Metro Unit said: “We welcome the introduction of SmartWater to the Metro system. In the past, it has not always been easy to return stolen property to its owners, but now we will be able to easily establish property which belongs to the Metro. The effectiveness of SmartWater will also act as a deterrent to thieves.”

Metro Director, Mick Carbro, said: “Metro property is now protected by SmartWater. This is a highly effective deterrent in the fight against cable theft on the Metro system.

“It shows up under UV light and is permanent. If criminals attempt to remove it they can inadvertently spread around more forensic evidence which can aid the police in securing a conviction. SmartWater has a proven track record of helping the police to catch thieves.

“This was the right thing for Metro to invest in as it has a 100 percent conviction rate when used as evidence in support of prosecutions. Criminals will find it tough to fight back against this as it provides strong evidence.

“Thieves have in the past targeted sections of Metro’s trackside equipment and that is why we have made sure it is marked with SmartWater.”

Phil Cleary, Chief Executive of SmartWater said: “The forensic evidence provided by SmartWater is undeniable. We can prove beyond question the true ownership of any item, thereby proving if something is stolen. This will act as a powerful and longstanding deterrent to thieves.”

In the photo all lit-up are Andy Bairstow, Communications Director and David Hogg, Metro Security Manager.


In the last three years the Metro system has been targeted by cable thieves on 17 separate occasions. In the 2005/06 there were five incidents of cable theft. In 2007/08 there were ten incidents. In the financial year to date there have been two incidents.

The Metro system in Newcastle, Gateshead, North Tyneside and South Tyneside is policed by Northumbria Police. The Sunderland line, Pelaw to South Hylton is covered by the British Transport Police.

SmartWater’s forensic products are successfully being used across the UK to tackle all sorts of crimes including burglary, metal theft, robbery, theft of plant machinery and vehicle crime.

The technology can be used across a wide range of public and private sectors, including warehouses, retail outlets, schools, churches, hospitals and defence establishments.

SmartWater clients include British Airways, Allianz, Anglian Water, Beaverbrooks, Boodles, Comet, Ecclesiastical Insurance, Morrisons, Mulberry, Scottish Power, Somerfield, United Utilities and Waitrose – and many many more.

The SmartWater Deterrent

The Police are actively looking for SmartWater and this message is being reinforced to the criminal fraternity by both SmartWater and Police Forces across the country.

Criminals know that SmartWater increases their chances of arrest and prosecution. Research shows that 91 percent awareness amongst criminals.

SmartWater is a forensic product so criminals find it difficult to defend against it.

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