Austin Police Department turns to new technology for safer car pursuits

Posted on Mar 25, 2014

Police officers know all too well that high-speed chases can turn extremely dangerous in a heartbeat. With fast turns and running red lights, suspects put pedestrians and other drivers' lives at risk, but the future of high-speed chases could be safer with new technology, reported CBS affiliate KEYE.

"The last thing we want is to have an innocent person or the suspect or the officer injured because of the pursuit," Sgt. Stephen Fleming of the Austin Police Department (APD) told the source.


The APD received a grant more than a year ago to invest in new technology to create safer police chases. According to the source, the department invested in a new dart tracking system called Star Chase. The system targets the vehicle officers are chasing using a laser sight to the suspect car's bumper, and then shoots a GPS-enabled dart that sticks to the suspect's car. The hope is to create more of a situational crime prevention strategy.

The dart's GPS tracking device allows officers to pull back from the pursuit, and take some heat off the suspect in hopes they will drive more safely to get away. While the officers are holding off on the chase, other officers back at the station can track every move on computers and devise a strategy to better protect public safety.

"I would say it's been a very successful program," Fleming told KEYE.

Recent accident propelling attention to high-speed chases

On March 15, a high-speed chase ended with a drunk-driving suspect accelerating through a crowd at the South By Southwest (SXSW) festival in Austin, Texas, reported the Christian Science Monitor. Currently, APD officers are authorized to initiate a chase when there is reason to believe the suspect is evading arrest by fleeing in a vehicle.

APD are hopeful to reduce the amount of chases that end in accidents and deaths. According to KEYE, in 2012, there were 143 pursuits and 36 crashes, and in 2013, when the Star Chase first appeared on police vehicles, there were 123 pursuits and 34 crashes.

While the numbers are nearly parallel, of the 17 pursuits involving the Star Chase system, no injuries of any sort and no crashes were reported, the source cited. Fleming told KEYE the APD captured every suspect in pursuit with the new system.

Crime control devices are improving each year, and police departments are benefiting from new technology becoming available. With the new devices, officers reduce potential harm to the public safety by limiting high-speed chases.

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