GPS Tracking Bullets Being Tested By Police To Aid Car Chases

By Ben Wolford on October 29, 2013 12:33 PM EDT

New GPS tracking technology promises to reduce the dangers of high-speed police chases.
New GPS tracking technology promises to reduce the dangers of high-speed police chases.

A GPS tracking bullet might change the future of high-speed police chases — by making them obsolete.

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It's already being tried out in Florida, Iowa and elsewhere to great success. And the company that makes it, StarChase, in Virginia Beach, Va., says even more departments are requesting information about it.

The technology is as cool as it sounds. Mounted on the grill of a pursuing cruiser is a compressed-air launcher loaded with the GPS tracking bullet. With a laser scope, the officer targets the rear of the fleeing suspect and fires. The projectile, which looks a little like a shotgun cartridge, flies out and sticks to the bumper. Then the officer sits back, turns off the siren and watches the tail lights disappear. Meanwhile, a dispatcher back at headquarters watches the dot move across a map.

"That kind of technology is exactly what we need," Geoff Alpert, a criminology professor at the University of South Carolina, told USA Today. "One of the most powerful tools the police have is to turn off their lights and siren because the pursued suspect will slow down." 

The company is letting certain law enforcement agencies around the country test the equipment, which costs $5,500 for the launcher and first round, the Epoch Times reports. In St. Petersburg, Fla., Assistant Chief Melanie Bevan said, "If it works, great, if it doesn't, we go back to the drawing board."

Just last month, South Florida witnessed the horrific results of a failed police chase. Officers sped after an SUV for 40 miles before the suspect slammed into a sedan at an intersection. The woman driving the sedan flew out of her crumpled, spinning car and died at the scene. More than 300 people die each year during police chases like this.

StarChase says its Hollywood-style tracking dart is much less chaotic. In a recent study from the National Institute of Justice, jurisdictions that use it have seen great results. "The field trials indicate that law enforcement's use of the StarChase system results in apprehension rates greater than 80 percent, with no injuries, fatalities or property damage," the company said in a press release.

StarChase isn't the only technology in the game, however. The GPS system OnStar is also offering help to law enforcement authorities. In 2012, after a man in Illinois stole a Chevrolet Camero, OnStar operators remotely disabled the gas pedal on the car. It slowly veered off the road, and the thief was arrested without incident, according to CBS Chicago.

Officers with the Arizona Department of Public Safety are using the StarChase tracking bullet along the Mexico border. In May, they tagged a vehicle that wouldn't stop for police and then let him get away. Later they caught up with the suspect at a residence and discovered 710 pounds of marijuana in the van.

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