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Liquid anti-theft technology to be used in rural SLO County

Posted at 5:57 PM, Sep 17, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-17 21:48:36-04

The San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office has a new tool to help prevent theft in rural parts of the county.

At a press conference Tuesday, the sheriff's office announced its partnership with SmartWater, a traceable liquid that can be put on almost anything.

All it takes is one dab of SmartWater and, instantly, any item you put it on has a unique bar code. The sheriff's office says they hope it will make agriculture equipment easier to track and deter people from stealing from farms and ranches in the community.

In a demonstration Tuesday, the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office showed off how their newly-purchased SmartWater system will work.

Farmers and ranchers throughout the county will be given vials of SmartWater, an odorless, traceable liquid that has a bar code unique to the vial's owner.

"We only need a sample size of a hair to get that code so it doesn't take much. It goes to our lab and we do the analytics. Our lab likes to say it takes 10 days but it typically is a lot quicker than that," explained Randy Butschillinger, Sales Manager for SmartWater CSI.

The sheriff's office says people may be surprised at how much theft takes place out in agricultural parts of the county.

"Last year alone, our Rural Crimes Unit investigated over 400 different calls for service, anything from theft of equipment to animal cruelty cases," explained Sgt. Jeff Nichols, San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office.

Rancher Anthony Stornetta, President of the San Luis Obispo County Cattlemen's Association, says it's an exciting opportunity for farmers and ranchers to be able to protect their belongings.

"I know countless people and countless friends who have lost quite a bit of equipment and a lot of times it's never recovered. Sometimes it takes a lot of time at length for the sheriff's office to recover that stuff and they do on occasion but I think with this SmartWater, it's kind of a forensic thing where it's going to bring it right back to your ranch," Stornetta said.

Butschillinger says even if someone tries to scrape off the SmartWater from a piece of equipment, the marking will then transfer to whatever was used to scrape it off, so the bar code is never lost.

In total, the sheriff's office has purchased 450 kits and they will be handed out for free to farmers and ranchers starting Tuesday.

The sheriff's office says they are the first department in the area to purchase this new tool.