Bouncers are being armed with “SmartTag” sprays to keep tabs on violent revellers, as well as those who sexually assault or spike other clubbers.
Accredited security guards have been issued with hand-held “forensic spray” cans to help curb city centre violence in at least four police force areas.
SmartTag, developed by scientists at SmartWater, acts like a permanent marker. Each can of spray contains liquid with a unique chemical signature, so police can later find those covered with it.
The spray is harmless but remains present on skin, clothing and other surfaces for more than two months. Shining a UV light on it will show when the person was tagged.
It has been pioneered by South Yorkshire Police and was launched on Wednesday in West Yorkshire, where more than 100 security staff in bars and clubs across the county will be equipped with the forensic spray. It is understood it is also being deployed in Kent and Hereford.
Chief Superintendent Jackie Marsh, director of the West Yorkshire Violence Reduction Unit, said: “The rollout of SmartTag across West Yorkshire represents yet another milestone in our ongoing commitment to people’s safety within the night-time economy.”
‘Calming effect on troublemakers’
Gary Higgins, director of commercial operations at SmartWater Group, said: “In recent police-supported trials, the mere presence of SmartTag has been proven to act as a powerful deterrent.
“It has a noticeable calming effect on troublemakers, even without a single canister having to be deployed. SmartWater is a powerful tool as it provides the police with the evidence they need to prosecute, and hundreds of criminals are behind bars as a result.
“As we gear up for a busy Christmas period, we’re sending out a clear message that violent behaviour will not be tolerated in our night-time venues or within our wider communities.”
Police and company sources said it could also be deployed if there was a sexual assault, although it would be a decision taken on the ground by the trained security guard.
“If the circumstances were right, we could tag someone suspected of spiking or sexual assault offences,” said a source. “The idea is that we want to deter and prevent.
“But if there is an incident, you can physically put someone to a particular event at a particular time and place. There are a lot of investigative difficulties with violence in the night-time economy. You depend on CCTV or witnesses whose memories may be clouded for whatever reason.”
SmartTag is also being used by police officers in Nottinghamshire, Staffordshire, West Mercia, West Yorkshire and South Yorkshire to tag people who ride off-road motorcycles illegally.