METHUEN (CBS) – It is a scene that has played out on live TV over and over again. A suspect speeding away from police, smashing into curbs, barriers and cars along the way. High-speed police chases are dangerous and potentially deadly.
Methuen Police Chief Joseph Solomon doesn’t want to put his officers or his citizens in that kind of danger. “We never want to be in a position as the chief to say we killed somebody that we probably didn’t have to kill,” he said.
That’s why Chief Solomon decided to try a new technology that allows officers to keep track of a fleeing suspect without the dangerous pursuit. It’s called Starchase.
Here’s how it works: Two compressed air units are installed in the grill of a police cruiser. Inside each unit is a GPS tracker projectile coated with heavy duty adhesive and a magnet that makes them stick to a fleeing car. If a suspect runs from a traffic stop, officers can shoot the GPS tracker into the back of the car using the control panel in their cruiser or with a handheld fob.
There is no need for lights and sirens. Officers can track the GPS signal using a computer program that maps the location of the suspect’s car. The information is also easy to share with other departments, or the State Police helicopter, when more manpower is needed.
According to Chief Solomon, suspects will often slow down and eventually ditch a car if they believe police are no longer chasing them. “The goal is you bail out of your car and we chase you on foot, which is much safer,” he said.
The National Institute of Justice says technology like Starchase will reduce the need for pursuits but won’t totally eliminate high speed chases.
But, the president of the company believes there are few drawbacks to his product. “We’ve had zero fatalities, zero injuries and zero property damage and zero liability,” said Trevor Fischbach.
Methuen police is the only department in Massachusetts with Starchase. They haven’t used it yet, but the chief believes it’s worth the investment of $20,000 up front and then $1,000 a year per cruiser.
“What is a life worth? What is it worth for someone you love to be crippled or killed, either being the person fleeing for some stupid charge that they should stop for or just the innocent person?” he said.