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Virginia Beach company's device could put brakes on police pursuits

 November 21, 2006
 

High speed, high risk pursuits sometimes have deadly consequences.

Desperate suspects are risking life and limb and not always their own.

Just ask Hikma James/Blackley.  The Newport News woman broke her foot and her children were badly injured when a suspect, pursued by State Police, slammed into her mini-van.

"My daughter could have died. My other kids could have died.  It could have turned out worse than it did."  

"It's dangerous not only for the officer and the person who's fleeing, but for the innocent motorist who is traveling those same roads," said Va. Beach Police Chief Jake Jacocks.

Because of the risk, Chief Jacocks says his will only chase a vehicle if the driver is reckless, armed or presents a clear danger. Hes one of several police chiefs who support the StarChase device being developed by a Va. Beach company.

Police vehicles would be equipped with a laser guider that would hone in on a suspect vehicle then fire a sticky dart with a GPS device that would attach to the vehicle and allow officers to track it.

The makers claim the StarChase unit will reduce the hundreds of millions of dollars paid out by insurance companies for medical bills, workers compensation and lost wages.

"To see how it ended, the guy that hit us dying and my daughter going out the window, us being put out, I just feel like they need to do something better to prevent it," said Ms. James/Blackley.

StarChase is being tested right now in Los Angeles and Florida.

If the results are good, it would be available to police departments across the country next year.