Lawrence police using GPS launchers to help make high-speed chases safer

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LAWRENCE, Ind. – The Lawrence Police Department is the first in the state to use a GPS-launching device to make high-speed chases safer.

The tech-savvy StarChase tool is hidden in a compartment on the front of some of the force’s patrol cars.  If a suspect is trying to outrun law enforcement, an officer can use a laser to take aim and launch the device. The device sticks to the back of the suspect’s car, allowing the officer to safely slow down.

“The longer a pursuit goes the more dangerous it comes. So if this technology can be used successfully it can afford our officers the opportunity to apprehend the person trying to elude,” said Deputy Chief Gary Woodruff, with the Lawrence Police Department.

Inside the launching device is a GPS-tracking chip.  While a fleeing suspect may think he got away from officers, even more law enforcement officers will be involved.  Dispatch is alerted as soon as the tool is discharged and more manpower can be sent to wherever the suspect is driving.

“While people may still decide to run, the more they learn they aren’t going to get away even if they see the police backing off,” said Woodruff.

For tactical reasons, police don’t want to disclose the firing distance ability for the device.  The plan is to have one patrolling the streets at all times starting in the next couple days. If an officer attempts to launch a the device and misses, there isn’t a reload option.

“It’s not a semiautomatic loader.  It’s kind of a one and done deal but that doesn’t mean there might not be another one in another vehicle right behind the officer that employed it,” said Woodruff.

Last year, the Lawrence Police Department was involved in 29 pursuits.  Back in 2005, Officer Craig Herbert was killed during a high speed chase. Officer Herbert is the only Lawrence officer killed in the line of duty.

The devices were paid for through a federal grant.

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