The GPS tag and launcher system from StarChase is designed to reduce the risks inherent in high-speed pursuits
By Laura Neitzel for PoliceOne BrandFocus
Residents in every major city will complain about how terrible traffic is. The over 10,000 miles of highway in the Houston area are truly some of the most challenging – and deadly – in the nation. An analysis by the Houston Chronicle found that, “On average, 640 people die on Houston-area roads every year, making the region, by almost any measure, the most deadly major metro area in the country in which to drive.”
After 21 years with the California Highway Patrol, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo knows firsthand how dangerous, intense and deadly highway pursuits can be. So when he was at an International Association of Chiefs of Police conference and met the founder of StarChase, he was immediately interested in how the StarChase vehicle-mounted GPS launcher and tag system could help mitigate some of the risks inherent in pursuits.
According to StarChase, there are more than 100,000 high-speed pursuits in the United States every year, and up to 85 percent of them are initiated by non-violent offenders. Unfortunately, the consequences of someone with a few outstanding tickets trying to run away from the common scenario of being stopped for a traffic violation can turn into a much bigger tragedy. More than 350 officers and civilians are killed and over 55,000 injured each year due to police pursuits.
“Some cities have blanket policies against pursuits because of the dangers involved to both officers and citizens,” said Acevedo. “But I think a blanket policy not to chase is an invitation to chaos, because the crooks know they have a lower chance of getting caught.”
Finding a solution that reduces the need for a high-speed pursuit is in everyone’s interest. Chief Acevedo, then chief of police in Austin, Texas, advocated for widespread adoption of StarChase’s vehicle mounted GPS tag and launcher system.
HOW IT WORKS
The compressed-air launcher is mounted in the grill of the police vehicle. When a drive-off or pursuit seems imminent, from a console inside the patrol vehicle, the officer can deploy a GPS projectile/tag that adheres to the suspect vehicle.
The tag contains a miniature GPS module embedded in a customized industrial-strength adhesive and relays GPS coordinates through wireless phone networks, displaying location, speed and other pertinent data onto a secure computer interface. Dispatch, command staff and any officer with user access can then view and track the tagged vehicle from any internet-enabled device via the web-based portal.
The StarChase pursuit management system is easy to use, and because it’s web-based, it requires no hardware and integrates with existing computer aided dispatch and automatic vehicle location systems. The tag sends updates every three to five seconds, allowing for close surveillance of suspect vehicles and providing air and ground support with tactical monitoring capabilities.
After the chase, StarChase surveillance history can be downloaded and stored on a secure server, providing a valuable trail of court-admissible evidence for any pursuit or interdiction event.
APPREHENSION WITHOUT INCIDENT
While some cities have policies against pursuits, Acevedo thinks having a blanket no-pursuit policy is an overreaction, especially when the StarChase vehicle-mounted system gives police agencies more control to pursue safely.
During Acevedo’s tenure in Austin, the Austin Police Department deployed the StarChase tag 40 times, each resulting in apprehension without incident. In fact, Acevedo notes, when word got around that Austin PD was using StarChase tags, fleeing suspects would pull over as soon as they felt the tag hit the vehicle, knowing that apprehension was almost certain.
In Houston, Acevedo hopes to repeat the success he had in Austin. While Houston PD has just recently started using the StarChase system with certain units in high-crime areas, Acevedo is using the data collected from the web-based portal to advocate for wider deployment.
“We owe it to all of the stakeholders to provide every tool at our disposal to manage the pursuits and end them in the manner that maximizes the potential for a safe apprehension,” said Acevedo. “StarChase is one tool in our toolbox that allows us to do that and has resulted in the safe apprehension of fleeing suspects who ended up being booked for charges ranging from DUI to armed robbery.”
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