St. Pete police hope GPS device limits chases

St. Petersburg -- Police hope new GPS technology called StarChase will reduce the number if high-speed pursuits and the danger they pose to the public.

"It's to try and avoid pursuits -- we try not to get into, although there are certain circumstances where they do occur," said Sgt. Marlin Heyward.

Just this year the department started a new policy - chase suspects only if they are wanted for a felony.

The department is trying to avoid incidents like one in February when a 91-year-old woman was carjacked, and then the suspects took off on what became a 20-minute police chase in downtown St. Petersburg.

BACKGROUND:91-year-old carjacked in St. Pete

Finally, law enforcement had to back off and a helicopter took over the pursuit. As the suspects tried to flee from police, they caused several accidents.

"They drive recklessly, speed through neighborhoods. Puts citizens in danger and officers in danger," police said.

This is how it works: an officer gets close to the suspected vehicle and fires a dart that contains a GPS device, which sticks to the vehicle. The officer can then use a laptop or a phone to track the vehicle instead of starting a high-speed pursuit.

MORE:Learn more about the StarChase device

"It is almost like we are invisible ... with these on the vehicle we track them with wireless technology with laptops - we can keep an eye on them and keep them in a perimeter," said Heyward.

This technology has a three-year lifespan and 12 of the low-profile vehicles are armed with it. The department already tested the device for six months. The police department will further asses the performance of the device and decide if it should buy more.


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