A staple of action films involving law enforcement is the car chase. Films such as Bullitt, The French Connection, or To Live and Die in LA have long been admired for their action-packed, suspenseful chases, with the cops chasing down the bad guys at high speeds on the streets of large cities.
That’s fun in the movies, but in real life, high speed chases are dangerous. In the movies, all of the other cars involved know what is happening. In real life, cars driven by innocent passers-by sometimes get involved in crashes, either in trying to avoid the bad guys or in trying to avoid the police. These accidents are sometimes fatal, and that can lead to both lawsuits and the bad guys getting away.
A relatively new technology called StarChase GPS is making it easier for police to track down suspects. In fact, they can engage in a low-speed chase and pretty much catch the suspects at their leisure, now that the Virginia-based company’s product is starting to see success among various law enforcement agencies around the country.
StarChase GPS avoids high speed chases by allowing the police to see where the car is going at a distance. How does this work? The system uses a compressed air cannon that is mounted to the front of the police car. This cannon launches a small device called a “tag” that includes a GPS transmitter. The tag has a sticky substance attached to it, and when the cannon launches it, it sticks to the car being pursued. Laser guidance systems allow the cannon to be adjusted for trajectory and distance.
The tag can then broadcast the location of the car being followed to a central dispatch office, and they, in turn, can contact other officers to let them know of the location of the car. This allows the police to slow down and avoid getting into accident with innocent parties. It also may give the fleeing party the false sense of security. They may think the police have stopped chasing them and they may slow down. This, too, can help ensure safety of other drivers.
The system costs about $5000 and up and is being used by a number of police departments around the country. This week, police in Canton, Georgia were able to successfully apprehend a driver using StarChase GPS. Police noted a speeding car on Interstate 575 and attempted to make a routine traffic stop, but instead of stopping, the driver drove away.
Police followed and deployed a StarChase GPS tag. They were then able to follow the driver to a rural location where they were able to make an arrest without incident.
StarChase’s own statistics show that their device allows law enforcement to have an apprehension rate of greater than 80%. Furthermore, they say that on average, the fleeing drivers tend to slow down to within 10 miles per hour of the posted speed limit within two minutes of deployment.
They also say that large-scale deployment of their device could prevent up to 55,000 injuries per year.
We expect to read a lot more about this device in the future.