South Yorkshire Police will 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.”