Innocent bystanders account for one-third of those killed in high-speed police chases, says USA Today. The deaths have several communities considering whether to restrict pursuits to suspects in violent crimes. About 360 people are killed each year in police chases, says the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Criminologist Geoffrey Alpert of the University of South Carolina says the actual number of fatalities is “three or four times higher.”
More than 35 percent of police chases end in crashes, Alpert says. He says the nation’s 17,000 police departments are moving toward more restrictive chase policies “because chasing someone for a traffic offense or a property offense is not worth the risk of people’s lives and well-being.” Although police chases are dangerous, police who allow suspects to flee run the risk that offenders will do even greater harm to citizens, says police detective Michael Crivello, president of the Milwaukee Police Association. “They’re fleeing because they may be wanted for sexual assaults, shootings, homicides,” he says. “There are pursuits that are successfully concluded all the time, but you never hear about those.” Milwaukee changed its policy on pursuits last month after four people were killed by drivers fleeing police in three separate incidents over two months. Police now must have probable cause that a violent felony has occurred instead of reasonable suspicion before initiating a chase.