Leeds tackles paving thieves with Smart Water

SmartWater being sprayed on the sandstone paving in Leeds.

Leeds, in Yorkshire, is fed up with having its sandstone paving stolen, so on 23 August it started marking it with SmartWater. It invited the press along to get the message out that the marking was taking place, because a major part of SmartWater's strength is its effectiveness as a deterrent.

SmartWater has been presented in evidence in more than 400 court cases and it has a 100% conviction success rate. That makes thieves nervous.

The state-of-the-art initiative in Leeds will see paving in hot-spots marked in what is believd to be the first move of its kind on paving by a council, although councils have used SmartWater on other products – Nottingham, for example, says it has reduced its losses by an ongoing £18million a year.

The product was developed 20 years ago by an ex-policeman, who thought it would be a good idea, and his brother, a chemist, who made it using a combination of rare earths. The formula is secret, but it means each container of SmartWater is identifiable, so products marked with it can be matched to a database maintained by the SmartWater company, identifying the owner and even, in Leeds' case, the street that the stone paving is on.

In Leeds, the council is working in partnership with the crime-prevention company SmartWater, based in Telford, which developed the product with which it shares its name. The stones are being sprayed with the forensic, traceable liquid that carries the identifiable, individual code.

This move by the council is in response to a rise in the theft of public paving stones in recent years that then have to be replaced at public expense.

Cllr Richard Lewis, Leeds City Council’s Executive Member for Regeneration, Transport & Planning, says: "The number of public paving stones that we have had to replace due to thefts in our communities has unfortunately risen in recent years. It was for this reason that we decided to investigate what options might be available to us not only to act as a deterrent and help reduce this crime, but also at the same time to assist the police in arresting any perpetrators.

"The results we have seen from similar initiatives that SmartWater has undertaken to help other local authorities tackle a variety of different crimes through the use of this forensic, traceable liquid have been positive, and we are hopeful that this will be replicated here in Leeds."

SmartWater chief executive Phil Cleary adds: "SmartWater has aided the successful conviction of hundreds of criminals. As a result it is considered to be a powerful deterrent, which will benefit Leeds City Council and make their Yorkshire paving stones significantly less attractive to thieves."