ALBUQUERQUE, NM —
A handful of squad cars for the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office are now equipped with GPS tracking darts that shoot out and stick to a suspect’s vehicle during dangerous high-speed chases.
The goal, according to Sheriff Manuel Gonzales, is to deescalate a chase while maintaining surveillance of the suspect or suspects.
The futuristic technology is called “StarChase” –and it looks like it comes straight out of a spy movie.
Gonzales says his office started a pilot program for StarChase in June. The startup cost was $30,000 and costs $10,000 to run annually.
How it all works is truly intriguing. If a deputy is following a suspect on the road and the chase starts to become dangerous, Gonzales says they can deploy a StarChase dart. If fired accurately, it sticks to the back of the suspect’s car.
The darts fire from an air compressor unit that’s mounted on the front of a deputy’s vehicle. The darts don’t penetrate or damage vehicles, Gonzales adds.
Once attached, deputies can then back off from the chase and keep tabs on the suspect by tracking the dart through computer aided dispatch.
Gonzales says it removes deputies and the public from the threat of any potential danger.
“We’re always concerned about high-risk pursuits. It’s probably one of the highest liabilities we get into,” Gonzales said.
“Anything that keeps our officers and the public safe, we get excited about.”
Gonzales says deputies can keep their distance (and a low profile) as they monitor where the suspect goes, and then move in for an arrest once the vehicle stops.
Since June, Gonzales says that 18 darts have been deployed. Of those 18 deployments, 15 successful arrests followed.
Not only that, Gonzales says that at least $100,000 in stolen property has been recovered since StarChase launched a few months ago. A lot of that property, he says, revolves around stolen cars.
“It’s nice to recover someone’s vehicle unharmed. At this point, it’s been a really good investment.”
The sheriff’s office says it’s the only department in the state with StarChase.
While it’s only a pilot program, Gonzales says he’d like to outfit all squad cars with the technology at some point in the future.
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