Every year there is estimated to be upwards to a hundred thousand high speed police pursuit on the roads and highways of America every year. While police chases make for very exciting television, they also tend to be dangerous for everyone involved, the police, the suspect being chased, and innocent bystanders. The economic cost is overwhelming, with hundreds of millions paid out in the U.S. annually, due to insurance payouts, medical bills, workers’ compensation and lost wages.
It is estimated that up to 85 percent of the suspects involved in a police high speed chase are nonviolent offenders. Many of them simply have outstanding traffic violations on their records and, foolishly, think they can avoid dealing with them by outrunning the police.
A company in Virginia called StarChase is currently marketing a new device, also called StarChase, that promises to render the high speed police pursuit obsolete. The StarChase system consists of a tracking projectile with a miniaturized GPS receiver, radio transmitter, power supply and a compressed-air launcher with a laser guided sight which can be hand-held or mounted on a police car.
The way it works is that when a suspect is attempting to flee in an automobile, the police fires a golf ball-sized tracking device, which is coated with a highly efficient gluey compound that makes it stick to the suspect’s car. Once a fleeing suspect’s car has been tagged using the air launcher, its position can be tracked in real time via GPS, which is transmitted by a radio transmitter in the StarChase device. The suspect’s position is superimposed on a map at the police dispatch center.
The police can then ease off on the pursuit of the suspect and use the StarChase system to track him. Instead of a high speed pursuit, with the inherent risk to lives and property, the police can leisurely plan and execute an interdiction strategy. The suspect can then be apprehended in a calm, methodical fashion.
Currently, the Los Angeles Police Department is field testing the StarChase system. This field test is scheduled to last for five months. If the field tests prove the utility of the system, the Los Angeles Police Department plans to buy as many as twenty of the devices.
A somewhat more high tech version of the StarChase device has already been depicted in science fiction, in one of the Star Wars films. In Episode II: Attack of the Clones, Obiwan Kenobi fights with bounty hunter Jango Fett on the planet Kamino. When Fett takes off in his ship, Obiwan takes careful aim, and zings a homing beacon that attaches itself to Fett’s ship. The Jedi homing beacon tracking device allows Obiwan to follow Fett through both hyperspace and heavy asteroid fields.