Shield formed across parts of Sheffield and Doncaster

South Yorkshire Police will today escalate their drive against burglars and serious acquisitive crime with the launch of Operation Shield.

Operation Shield, funded by the Community Safety Partnerships and the Police and Crime Commissioner, is a highly targeted initiative which focuses on the areas most affected by serious acquisitive crime (the crimes committed to fund the use of drugs).

Officers from South Yorkshire Police, South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service, Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council and Sheffield City Council will visit 8000 homes in key areas including Gleadless in Sheffield and Mexborough and Hexthorpe in Doncaster to deliver Smartwater.

Deputy Chief Constable Mark Roberts said: “This approach is part of a broader range of initiatives which will be used under Operation Shield and is arguably one of the most effective deterrents in crime. We’re using a traceable liquid to uniquely mark property; it’s invisible to the naked eye. This means burglars, or the property they have taken, could be covered in a liquid which indisputably links them to the offence.

“Smartwater is a name known amongst the criminal fraternity and it creates a fear amongst burglars. They have no way of knowing where it is and if it is on them but they do know that once it is on you, you can’t get it off.

“As part of Operation Shield, I want to be absolutely clear that these invisible markings are in use in many ways across South Yorkshire. It is present on property and can also be used as a spray to coat a person as they enter or exit a particular location.

Every custody suite is equipped with specialist lamps. Anyone who is arrested anywhere in South Yorkshire for anything will be checked for traces of Smartwater.

“Officers will hand out 8000 kits over the coming weeks and with each visit will encourage the occupant to register their kit on a central database. It is this registration, which allows us to link the property marking to the burglary. This allows us to make the arrest, and return any stolen goods. It will also form a key part of any prosecution case.

Dr Alan Billings, South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner, said: “This initiative is a very effective way of protecting communities from burglaries. It has been used successfully elsewhere. We know that thieves avoid areas protected by this sort of product because the chances of them being caught are significantly increased.

“I have provided funding for the initiative to be rolled out in burglary hotspot areas across South Yorkshire to protect homes and businesses to deter thieves, catch offenders and help to return property to victims.”


Operation Shield is the latest offensive against burglars operating in South Yorkshire. It utilises a property marking product which leaves a unique print on people and property, this is known as Smartwater.

Smartwater is a water-based, traceable liquid which contains a unique forensic signature. It can withstand fire, humidity and sunlight and just a speck is required to link a criminal or property to a crime.

Smartwater is being used on properties across South Yorkshire with plans to expand its use further.

How does the property marking kit work?

Smartwater is a water-based, traceable liquid which contains a unique forensic signature. It can withstand fire, humidity and sunlight and even just a speck is required to link a criminal or property to a crime. It’s well known by criminals and presents a very real threat to them.

I have a kit, what do I do with it?

Have a think about the items of property you would most like to protect and simply mark them with a small amount of your Smartwater. Remember, none of this works unless you register your Smartwater.

How do I register my kit?

To register your Smartwater please visit

Can I share my Smartwater with a friend?

The Smartwater can only be registered to one person so you can share it but remember, if it is stolen and later found, it will be returned to the person registered.

How do I get a kit if I don’t live in these areas?

We’re offering it for free in these areas at present but we’d encourage community groups and businesses to invest in the initiative. If you are interested in doing so please get in touch.

Do South Yorkshire Police attend all reports of burglary?

We send a crime scene investigator to all reports of burglary as they are able to gather potential evidence which couldn’t be collected by officers.

Why have these areas been selected?

We’ve looked at data showing the last three years and can see that parts of Gleadless have suffered burglary for some time. To address this we need a mixed approach, Smartwater plays various roles in this. Firstly, we highlight the presence of Smartwater to create a deterrent. We do this through extensive signage in the area, leaflets in chemists which dispense class A drugs substitutes such as methadone, posters and leaflets in every custody area.

We also work with our partners to ensure those accessing services and likely to commit crime in the area know of the lengths we will go to to catch them.

Secondly, we robustly and proactively scan for traces of Smartwater and use this wherever possible in prosecutions. We have carried out extensive work to ensure Magistrates across South Yorkshire understand the science of Smartwater and the lengths we have gone to to give offenders a way out of crime and into drug treatment. This will help demonstrate the intent of those before them to continue offending and will hopefully form part of the Magistrates considerations when determining the most appropriate sentence.

What will this do to crime levels in neighbouring areas?

We were concerned about this too so we visited forces who have carried out such operations to look at the evidence. They found that crime in the surrounding areas also dropped. We’ll never say exactly which houses have Smartwater and which don’t so burglars can never be sure where we stopped.

The intensive support to get offenders off the streets either through drug rehabilitation programmes or custodial sentences also positively affects this.

We will closely monitor the impact on surrounding areas.

What is the cost of Smartwater?

Unfortunately this is commercially sensitive information but we are confident that the return on investment will be a significant decrease in serious acquisitive crime in the area.

How was it funded?

The initiative has been funded by the local Community Safety Partnerships and the Police and Crime Commissioner.


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