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APD Gets Technological Alternative to High Speed Chases

Marissa Barnett, KUT News

Some Austin Police Department patrol cars are starting to use a new vehicle-locating system today called StarChase.

Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo says the units will only be used during suspect vehicle pursuits. The device, he says, will allow police officers to track suspects without engaging in high-speed chases and will hopefully avoid accidents and fatalities. 

Just how does it work? The system is "a device, it’s kind of like a dart, if you will, that will be shot forward, propelled from the police car," says Acevedo. "It will stick to the back of the suspect’s vehicle and it will stick a tracking device with the GPS capabilities on that suspect’s vehicle."

A grant from the National Institute of Justice has provided funding for the new system, which cost $4,900 per unit.

In Austin, there were 135 suspect pursuits in Austin, of which 22 resulted in crashes.       

The StarChase system is not the first tracking device that APD has used. In 2009, the department put automatic license plate readers on some of their patrol cars. In the nearly three years they used the system, the department recorded information from hundreds of thousands of plates. But when the company that made the system, PlateScan, went out of the business in 2011, the APD was out of a system and out of money for new technology.

As stipulated by the grant, funding for StarChase is guaranteed for the next year.