By: Kevin Regan, Pinal Central
MARICOPA — A vehicle is driving along John Wayne Parkway in the middle of the night and passes a patrol cop.
The license plate matches a car that’s been reported stolen. So the cop trails the vehicle and flashes the lights, but the driver doesn’t stop.
A green laser points to the back of the suspect car, helping the officer prepare to make a steady shot. The cop presses a button, a canister is launched, it sticks to the fleeing car.
The cop ends the chase but continues tracking the stolen car through GPS technology lodged inside the canister.
That’s a scenario the Maricopa Police Department may be able to play out through new equipment it recently installed, according to Sgt. Sean Marchese.
“It’s a little James Bond-like,” Marchese said, referring to the canisters manufactured by StarChase, a company specializing in law enforcement technology.
Four of the agency’s patrol cars have been equipped with StarChase equipment and officers will begin training with them early next year.
Marchese, who has been tasked with writing the agency’s policies on how to use StarChase, said it’s too early to say how often officers will deploy the GPS trackers. But he indicated they will need a valid reason to use the technology.
“You can’t run around and put GPS trackers on cars,” Marchese said, hinting at constitutional protections that keep the government from invading a citizen’s privacy.
But a motorist suspected of committing a crime, like kidnapping or drug smuggling, or those who evade a traffic stop, open themselves up to being tracked by StarChase.
It will be a “win-win” situation, Marchese said, because cops can still track suspects without endangering bystanders by engaging in a high-speed chase across the city.
“Our job is to protect the community,” he said, “not create more problems because we really want to get one person.”
Between 1996 and 2015, police chases across the country resulted in at least 6,000 fatal crashes, according to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. Fatalities peaked between 2006 and 2007, with more than 400 deaths per year.
The Arizona Department of Public Safety began utilizing StarChase equipment a few years ago. A 2013 media report shows StarChase trackers helped DPS troopers find a vehicle on Interstate 10 carrying over 1,600 pounds of marijuana.
When the company first began contracting with police departments across the country, some questioned the legality of attaching GPS devices on vehicles. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2012 this type of surveillance counts as a search, which requires a warrant under the Fourth Amendment.
But StarChase has said in prior statements that warrants are not needed because officers only use their trackers in situations where they have probable cause to follow the vehicle. The American Civil Liberties Union released a statement in 2014 approving the use of StarChase trackers only in cases where officers have probable cause to pursue a suspect.
The four Maricopa cop cars with StarChase equipment have a box installed on the front of the vehicle — each with two GPS cannons lodged inside. Compressed air is used to shoot the trackers, which stick to their target through magnets and a sticky adhesive.
But will the cannons still be able to deploy in the middle of summer when it’s a 110 degrees?
“I’ve been assured it won’t be an issue,” Marchese added.
© Copyright 2017 StarChase.com | All Rights Reserved