Australia is constantly reviewing its police pursuit policies, particularly following tragedies such as the Bourke St mall event that resulted in the deaths of six bystanders and the injuring of dozens more in Melbourne in January 2017.
According to a report published by the Australian Institute of Criminology in June 2013, in the period from 2000-2011, 82 innocent people were killed as the direct result of police pursuits in Australia. For every five suspects killed, three innocent bystanders also lose their lives as a direct result of a pursuit. With those statistics in mind, perhaps it’s time Australia consider a more effective alternative solution to the danger police chases pose to the lives of bystanders.
Most policy changes in Australia lean towards “no-pursuit” or otherwise disabling the vehicles quickly. However, according to the Queensland Police, since adopting their no-pursuit policy they have seen a near 30 per cent increase in evasion offenses, with only 27 per cent of offenders eventually being tracked down.
Frustrated by similar no-pursuit policies and destructive high-speed chases, US police officers have looked towards GPS technology, StarChase, to reduce risks associated with pursuits.
The StarChase system uses a compressed air launcher mounted in the grille of a police vehicle to launch a GPS device, which adheres to a suspect’s vehicle. The system can track and pinpoint a suspect’s vehicle location and speed in near real time. The tracking tag continually updates position coordinates, enabling dispatchers to track the vehicle’s movements on a secure map. Once tagged, officers can fall back and coordinate a tactical “safe stop” to apprehend the suspect.
In 2013, field trials in the US following the introduction of StarChase indicated that law enforcement’s use of the GPS tracking technology resulted in apprehension rates greater than 80 per cent. The data also shows that on average, a tagged suspect vehicle slows to within 15 km of the posted speed limit in one minute 45 seconds. Additionally, there were no injuries, fatalities or property damage, according to the report.
In a study published in the 2010 FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, Dr. Jeffrey Alpert of the University of South Carolina found approximately 75 percent of interviewed subjects reported they would slow down once they were out of the range of police authority and visible emergency lights or sirens. StarChase data coming in from the NIJ trials supports this earlier study.
“High-speed pursuits are extremely costly and sometimes deadly. As a result, some communities have enacted no-pursuit policies, greatly compromising law enforcement’s ability to apprehend suspects,” said Dr. Geoffrey Alpert. Alpert’s report quotes officers referencing the technology as a ‘game changer for law enforcement’.
“This is the first study of the StarChase system and it validates its place in law enforcement,” said Trevor Fischbach, president, StarChase. “We are confident these results will encourage continued adoption of this technology by the law enforcement community and pursuit accidents will end.”