Smearing Play-Doh over store products’ security tags does not disable them and can only get you into trouble. That’s the takeaway from a recent investigation of attempted thefts in a Walmart in Leicester, Massachusetts.
The real problem with the Play-Doh strategy, in addition to its ineffectiveness, is that the putty can retain fingerprints. That’s how police were able to link the attempted thefts to Dennis Jackson, a 55-year-old with a lengthy rap sheet who is currently being held in Worcester County Jail and House of Correction in West Boylston for other crimes. Police went ahead and added unlawful removal of an anti-theft device to the charges against Jackson.
It’s another example of police authorities’ increasing use of biometrics in their investigations, albeit a highly unusual one. While police around the world have long been in the practice of fingerprinting criminal suspects in case they can be tied to forensic evidence at crime scenes, investigations are becoming even more intensive as digital biometric scanning and matching technologies have become more sophisticated, with some novel applications starting to emerge. Just last month, for example, South Wales Police scanned a WhatsApp image of a hand holding illicit drugs to help tie it to a dealer they were investigating.
The Play-Doh investigation, meanwhile, was perhaps more straightforward, with a pristine print left behind in the putty that was quickly analyzed in a forensic lab and tied to Jackson, who was already well-known to police.
May 9, 2018 – by Alex Perala