The Co-op Group is introducing a new technology to tackle crime, with a device to spray traceable gel on anyone who tries to break into one of its ATMs.
The water-based gel, which remains invisible on clothes and skin – as well as the stolen cash – for five years, has been developed by forensic technology company SmartWater and saw a 90% cut in ATM crime during a pilot scheme last year.
The Group is now rolling it out across 2,500 cash machines at its UK food stores.
Chris Whitfield, director of retail and logistics at the Group, said: “ATM crime impacts customers and communities – it can also have a disproportionate impact on rural police force areas where cash dispensers are more of a lifeline for residents and the local economy.
“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.”
Phil Cleary, a former West Midlands police officer who invented the gel and his chemist brother Mike, said: “This technical development represents a serious upgrade in the security of ATMs as SmartWater products have helped convict hundreds of criminals worldwide and retain a 100% track record in Court.
“Simply, the ATMs protected by SmartWater now represent too high a risk for criminals and the more professional will give them a wide berth.”
He said an amount of gel the size of a speck of dust would be enough for scientists to undertake a successful analysis and help police with identification, with the forensic signature guaranteed to last five years.
The technology is effective whatever method of criminals use to break into an ATM.
Iain Raphael, Detective Chief Superintendent and Enfield Borough Commander for the Metropolitan Police, said: “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.”