DENVER--Each year in the U.S. police officers engage in about 100,000 high-speed chases, 70% of which last 10 minutes or less and 85% of which involve non-violent offenders. These chasers cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars annually in the form of lost time at work when officers are injured, insurance claims and liability lawsuits. So says fledgling Virginia Beach, Va.-based StarChase, which has developed a vehicle-tagging solution designed specifically to eliminate the need for such chases.
The system lets officers fire a plum-sized device at a vehicle whether it is moving or stationary, at a range of 30 feet. When the device strikes the vehicle, it immediately affixes thanks to a specially formulated epoxy created by Superior Polymer for this application. “That’s the secret sauce,” said Trevor Fischbach, the company’s vice president of business development.
A vehicle-tagging device does pursuing police little good if it falls off during the pursuit. So StarChase conducted a 2000-mile drive test in a variety of weather conditions including blistering heat and several thunderstorms. The device never fell off, according to Mandy McCall, chief operating officer. “Superior specializes in nasty, caustic environments, and they really responded to this challenge.”
The system, which isand AVL compatible, uses low-pressure compressed air (85 PSI) to launch the tagging device, about what a paintball gun uses to fire a pellet, which is considered non-lethal. An officer can fire the device while inside the vehicle, or when walking towards the suspect using a handheld wireless device, in case the suspect takes off. StarChase plans to eventually add a handheld device launcher.
Embedded in the device is a global positioning satellite chip set, a wireless modem and a power supply. The GPS feature provides latitude and longitude coordinates at regular intervals, which are sent wirelessly to a backbone server. The server records the location data in addition to the speed at which the pursued vehicle is traveling. The data is court admissible it is stored on a secure server in a non-disclosed location, according to Sean Sawyer, StarChase president and CEO.
The company is about to begin field-testing of the device in order to get input from those who will be using the device. “A lot of people try to force widgets on police and they might be the right solutions for them,” Fischbach said. “We’re looking to offer something police officers have given their blessing to. We want to walk before we run.”
StarChase will officially introduce its vehicle-tagging device at next month’s International Association of Police Chiefs conference in Miami.