New technology helps stolen property get returned to rightful owners

By Bill Spencer - Investigative Reporter

Brazen burglars break into homes and steal everything they can put their hands on.

They may eventually get caught, but the valuables they steal are rarely returned to the rightful owner.

Millions of dollars' worth of stolen material winds up in police evidence rooms, but how do the cops know to whom it belongs?

According to the FBI, there were 5.5 million thefts in 2017 alone.

"Stolen property is rarely returned to the rightful owner. Right now, there is an agency here in town that has over $500,000 worth of evidence in its stolen property room and it can’t be returned because we don’t know who it belongs to," Harris County Precinct 1 Constable Alan Rosen said.

A new product called Protech DNA uses spy technology and thousands of microscopic dots to mark your property. It finally gives police a chance to return stolen property to the rightful owners fast.

Protech DNA is an adhesive gel that dries clear and is invisible to thieves. You can swab it onto all of your most valuable items.

Inside the gel are thousands of microscopic beads that each contain a specific PIN that is registered only to the customer who uses that gel.

Rosen is one of the thousands of law enforcement officers across the United States who is now using the technology to identify stolen property and return it.

“This Protech DNA stuff is really a game-changer, because it’s going to help us not only solve more crimes but also get that valuable piece of property back to the owner," Rosen said.

With Rosen’s help, Channel 2 Investigates decided to put Protech DNA to the test and see if Rosen could find and identify the owners of items we spread out on a large table for him.

We didn’t tell him which items were marked or who they belonged to.

Right away, using a special black light provide by Protech and a super high-powered magnifying camera, Rosen tried to identify the items on the table that were marked with Protech DNA.

He didn’t know that we only marked four of the 25 items.

Within minutes, Rosen identified all four and found the identifying Protech DNA personal identification number. The number is impossible to see without the special Protech equipment.

“I see it. This watch, for example, is marked with the Protech DNA," Rosen said.

Rosen then typed the number into the Protech program and the name, email address and phone number of the rightful owner appeared.

“And this would allow us in law enforcement to call you up and say, 'We have found your property. Come on down and get it,'" Rosen said.

Former investment banker Jon Moreland, of Houston, has already marked many of the expensive items in his home because he believes in this brand-new way of fighting crime and returning stolen property to victims.

“I have probably marked at least 40 items in my home with the Protech DNA because, honestly, to me, much of this stuff is irreplaceable," Moreland said.

"We have over 5,000 law enforcement agencies right now that are participating in this program and we are seeing 100 or so agencies a week that are contacting us for more information on this technology," Shawn Andreas, the president of Protech DNA, said.

The creators of Protech DNA are starting a new program called Pawn Proof.

It will allow Protech to track stolen items to more than 7,000 pawn shops across the country by linking to the International Asset Registry for Law Enforcement database.

"Almost immediately, when your property goes to a pawn shop almost anywhere in the United States and is sold, we can tell you where it was sold, the pawn shop it was sold to and even the individual who actually sold it," Andreas said.

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