MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Police officers and sheriff’s deputies in the Twin Cities have a new way to catch car thieves without having to chase them.
Four subway departments deploy a unique tracking device that looks like it came from a James Bond movie. It’s called StarChase, and it’s a GPS tracking tool that launches a dart-shaped canister from the front of the squad car into the back of a stolen vehicle, allowing the police to follow the car without physically following it.
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“I think this will help us recover a lot more stolen items in a safe way,” said Ramsey County Deputy Joe Kill, one of three department deputies currently trying out the technology.
The tip of the StarChase dart has an adhesive coating, helping it stick to the suspected stolen car. The dart also has a magnet to ensure it stays attached.
Kill says he uses StarChase specifically when he comes across a stolen car, as it allows him to take a stealthy approach.
“As soon as you hit your lights and your sirens, they run away from you,” Kill said. “Or we can back off, not pursue it, track it on a computer [with StarChase] until it lands, then enter and make an arrest or retrieve the vehicle.
The primary benefit of technology is public safety. Police pursuits are dangerous for officers, suspects and the general public.
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Last fall, Laneal Frazier died in Minneapolis when an officer rammed his car while chasing a stolen vehicle.
“We’re trying to use different techniques right now to help us take down a suspect safely instead of chasing people through cities at high speed, where someone could be hurt or killed,” Kill said.
The grant money funds the three Ramsey County teams that currently have StarChase, but Kill hopes it doesn’t stop there.
“I think having it fitted to every car would help a lot,” he said.
Ramsey County has been using the technology for about three weeks. Kill deployed his device at least once.
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In order for the device to be used, vehicle owners must authorize the police to track their stolen vehicle.