I just read an article in my local newspaper about the 11,506 lives lost from 1979 to 2013 as a result of high speed pursuit of cars trying to evade police—half of these deaths were bystanders or passengers in those cars being chased. The fact that most of these are initially police stops for minor infractions or traffic violations is inconsequential—you don’t run from police—it is usually a sign that there is something more afoot.
Police departments around the country have advanced in many technologies over the last 15 years, but pursuit-termination devices have not kept up with those advances. A Houston police officer recently used tire spikes to stop a vehicle running from police and was killed when the car swerved to avoid the spikes. An FBI bulletin in 2012 stated that 26 police officers were killed when deploying spikes since 1996 and they suggested police “weigh other options”.
Helicopters are another possibility, but by the time a helicopter warms up and gets into the air, the suspect vehicle is usually gone. Not that many police departments have helicopters, another strain on tight budgets. The US Justice Dept. put out a report that only 201 of the country’s 941 largest police departments have helicopters and there are about 18,000 police departments in the US.
There is one newer system being deployed called StarChase which shoots a small adhesive GPS device out of the front grille of the pursuing police vehicle but at a cost of $5,000 per vehicle and only with a 60% hit rate—not a device to put on every police car in the fleet if you have a tight budget. You still have to chase a car to get close enough to fire the GPS tracker, but the high speed pursuit can be cut short one the tracker adheres to the car.
Another idea was a device that could fire microwaves at the fleeing vehicle that would confuse the automobile’s electrical system and cause the engine to shut down. This could work from 60 feet away. But what about other cars and people nearby? Apparently the system may need to be improved.
There has to be a lower cost way to do this with our amazing electronics technology today. In my mind, a far cheaper, but viable solution could be drones. While not foolproof or ideal for chasing a vehicle, they can probably track the vehicle via camera using remote control by a police officer in his squad car. This could be a far lower cost solution for police departments with tight budgets.
What ideas can you suggest?