In an effort to increase officer, suspect and civilian safety, police in Canada are unleashing GPS technology to track elusive criminals.
According to CBC News in British Columbia, Eight Delta police vehicles are now equipped with GPS dart technology allowing officers to attach a tracking dart onto a suspect vehicle when it fails to stop.
Police spokeswoman Sharlene Brooks said more than 70 vehicles tried to evade police in the Vancouver area last year. She also said the police department is the first in Canada to use StarChase Pursuit Management Technology.
“We really knew that we needed to have some additional tools in order to capture the offenders while mitigating risk to the general public because we know through experience there’s inherent risk involved when you’re engaged in a pursuit,” she said.
The dart’s system is installed inside the police cruiser’s grill and is safely deployed from inside by the officer. Once launched, it attaches to the rear bumper or license plate of an offending vehicle, and the officer is able to track the vehicle through an onboard GPS system.
According to CTV News Vancouver, the devices have also been synced to a button on the cars’ key fobs, so officers who are no longer in the cruiser – for example, approaching the suspect’s vehicle on foot – can fire the dart remotely if needed.
Trevor Fischbach, president of StarChase says the system can save lives.
“It lets them (police) use additional tactics to try and prevent as much risk as possible, in any kind of tragic outcome,” Fishback told CKNW radio. He continued, “We empower law enforcement to really reset a lot of the tactics they’ve used previously. Even in a felony-type pursuit, they are able to fall back and remove a lot of the adrenaline for everybody involved.”
Delta Police’s first operational test had positive results and the system initially appears to be working as advertised.
The first deployment of the GPS dart occurred on Wednesday evening when an officer spotted a vehicle driving erratically and failing to stop
“He [the officer] activated the emergency equipment and launched the dart,” said Brooks.
The driver eventually stopped and violation tickets were issued.
“Everything worked as it should,” she said.
Brooks said there is no plan to expand the use of the system until the force can fully evaluate how well it’s working.
According to a release on StarChase’s Web site, The GPS bullet is part of a larger movement by police departments to use technology to find safer, less lethal ways to deal with suspects.
The site also says, “Pursuits can raise adrenaline and emotions, resulting in aggressive confrontations when the suspects are stopped by a pursuit. These devices give officers time to [let the adrenaline high pass], so by the time the pursuit is over, they can think more clearly and make better tactical decisions.”
The Delta Police Foundation paid to upgrade the eight police cruisers at the cost of $1,500 per vehicle.