Henrico County, Va., has tested a new technology that its makers say could put an end to high-speed police pursuits, says the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Police officials are taking note of the less-than-lethal weapon that involves shooting an air-propelled “dart” equipped with a global positioning device at a fleeing car. There is hope that the “StarChase system” and other recent technological advances could revolutionize the way officers deal with fleeing suspects. “You can take speed out of the equation,” said Trevor Fischbach of the Virginia Beach-based manufacturer. The idea behind StarChase is to convert a dangerous high-speed pursuit into a safer slow-speed tracking operation that is monitored by a police department’s communications center.
“Initial tests were very successful and encouraging,” said Henrico Deputy Police Chief Doug Middleton. The Los Angeles Police Department and the Florida State Highway Patrol have agreed to serve as pre-commercial field-test sites for the StarChase technology, which gained national interest at International Association of Chiefs of Police conferences in 2005 and 2006. One drawback is that the device tracks the car, not the suspect. Criminals could elude police and then ditch the car with the tracking device. It would be difficult to prove who was driving the car. Some police agencies are looking at alternatives, such as devices that can disable a car’s electronics, causing it to stop. Several companies are developing directed-energy systems designed to disable cars using bursts of microwave energy. Most cars built since the 1970s have a microprocessor-controlled system, and a directed power surge could burn out those microprocessors.