The StarChase Pursuit Management System “tags” a suspect vehicle fleeing from law enforcement and leads authorities to the vehicle by the use of real-time GPS tracking, thereby minimizing the risks of a high-speed pursuit.
Started in 2001, StarChase, LLC, is a Virginia Beach, VA based company that specializes in pursuit management solutions using commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) components and existing technologies.
The StarChase System uses a laser-aimed compressed air launcher in the grill of a police car to affix a GPS tracking projectile on a suspect vehicle. The projectile sticks to the vehicle’s surface with a proprietary adhesive.
Once the projectile is in place, dispatchers use GPS radio signals from the projectile to track the target vehicle and update its mapped location. The system is scalable and has different upgrades or options, based on a department’s needs.
The launching system has been determined to be less lethal by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ). The projectile can be deployed by the officer from a control panel inside the police cruiser, or activated by the use of an optional fob when outside the cruiser.
Upgraded mapping can be linked to in-car computers to provide the responding officers with the vehicle’s position. The GPS information can also be programmed into AVL or CAD systems for a more detailed capture of data.
The StarChase GPS radio signals are picked up via cellular carriers. This technique is called an Assisted Global Positioning System, or AGPS. StarChase says this method gives strong signals, even in urban environments where traditional GPS signals may be weak.
StarChase’s informational material states that there are over 100,000 police pursuits per year. They contend that a pursuit solution such as theirs allows law enforcement agencies to “reduce liability, injury, loss of life and property damage by taking the speed out of the chase.”
Once the suspect vehicle is tagged, police are able to use alternative methods to locate, identify, and arrest a suspect. Though not articulated by StarChase, I think a safe apprehension can be done in several ways.
These interdiction strategies may include a passive surveillance and arrest at a destination, increased likelihood of air support arriving to assist, or the ability to more accurately plan a spike-strip or vehicle blocking trap.
There are times when a suspect vehicle in a pursuit gets away, leaving no further investigative leads, save a basic car description. With a GPS tag, even if the suspect vehicle is tracked and later found abandoned, evidence can be recovered and forensic processing done to identify the suspect(s).
On October 26, 2010, StarChase received an NIJ grant award to further the evolution and implementation of their pursuit-mitigation system. “The StarChase solution is consistent with the movement in the law-enforcement industry toward less-lethal technologies and risk reduction,” stated StarChase President Trevor A. Fischbach.
The Arizona Department of Public Safety began using StarChase in late 2009. They have said that the system works and arrests have been made using it. Other agencies that have tested the system include the Los Angeles Police Department and the Florida Highway Patrol.
In September of 2011, StarChase upgraded to a second generation system that has reduced cost and improved efficiency. The newest system scales the launcher back to a single-source pressure unit for a more consistent, quicker vehicle tagging. The new units are also smaller and have their own on-board compressors.
While there is no silver bullet solution to an escaping suspect getting on the gas, creativity and evolving technology may give us more options down the road.