Troopers from the Iowa State Patrol have joined the growing number of departments across the country arming their police cars with a new launchable GPS tracking device, aimed at stopping dangerous police chases.
Referred to as a pursuit reduction technology, the StarChase system launches a miniature GPS tracker from a compressed-air cannon mounted on the police vehicle’s grill. Once attached, an officer can end a pursuit and track the vehicle at a later time.
“After they think the officer has disengaged, they (the suspects) will back down to normal speeds to blend in with traffic, so they don’t get noticed again,” Trooper Tim Sieleman told KCCI News.
The item, usually running as much as $5,000 per unit, uses laser target acquisition to successfully tag one of its two $500 GPS projectiles onto a fleeing vehicle. GPS coordinates relayed through wireless phone networks give officers specific data including the vehicle’s speed and location.
“You get behind a state patrol car and you’re not getting away. You may get away for a little bit, but we will catch you,” Sieleman added.
“A lot of times we have to let vehicles go. At least now we’ll be able to shoot the round out and see where they go to and hopefully, eventually, catch the people who flee from us,” said Florida officer Jenna Price. “No more fast chase pursuits.”
While police argue the device’s safety inducing aspects, some civil liberties advocates worry about the high-potential for abuse.
“While I appreciate the use of new technologies to decrease the number of irresponsible high speed chases over minor traffic infractions that result in the deaths of too many people, I worry about the abuse of these devices. Law enforcement has shown us time and time again that when they get new toys they like to use them, and that often results in infringements on our civil liberties,” Antonio Buehler of the Peaceful Streets Project told Storyleak.
“Further, I fear that this is an expensive technology, and should a police officer prematurely deploy this device, it may lead to false charges being filed against innocent people to cover up the mistakes of the police officers.”
As technology rapidly increases, police departments have begun to use an assortment of advanced methods to track not only criminals, but the general public as well. Coupled with the militarization of police, Crime prediction software, license plate scanners and the use of spy drones, the line between technology and privacy continues to blur.