GPS technology has come an incredibly long way in just a few short years. In “the old days,” you had to buy a large and expensive standalone unit that would give you turn-by-turn directions between any two points. If you didn’t want to do that, you were stuck with an old-fashioned atlas – or printed directions from a site like Mapquest. Flash forward to today and nearly every consumer smartphone available on the market comes with a more advanced version of the same tech baked in from the moment you purchase it.
With GPS becoming such a ubiquitous part of our daily lives, it makes sense that people would start looking for newer and more innovative applications of it. Case in point: Police in Colorado recently started using GPS in a way that will potentially change the face of law enforcement as we know it.
Colorado’s GPS Darts
The Arvada Police Department in Colorado recently made history when it became the first – and to date, the only – department in the state to use a specially designed type of GPS tracking dart to monitor people who speed away from officers during routine traffic stops. The system, dubbed StarChase, uses a real-time GPS imaging technique that gives officers a strategic advantage in a wide range of different situations.
Without this type of technology, a suspect speeding away from the scene of a traffic stop would almost certainly lead to a high-speed chase – something that is particularly common in heavily populated areas like Los Angeles in particular. Now, officers can prevent these chases from happening altogether and still apprehend their suspect at the same time.
In a statement made to local news affiliates, StarChase president Trevor Fischbach said that the technology was intended to help provide a “de-escalation” path for law enforcement. Spokeswoman for the Arvada police department Jill McGranahan echoed those sentiments, saying that the main object of using a system like StarChase in the first place was to keep both officers and community members safer when these types of incidents occur.
The StarChase darts themselves are designed to be deployed from a squad car in seconds. They use a special type of adhesive solution that allows them to stick to nearly any surface and also withstand many environmental conditions like wind and rain. Each squad car that is outfitted with the technology represents a roughly $5,000 initial investment – though StarChase says that in subsequent years that costs can drop as low as $1,000 per car.
The Arvada police department has been using the technology for the past nine months, but even in such a short period of time they still say that the results have been overwhelmingly positive. A representative for the department said that the program currently has an 85% success rate, though that number is expected to increase as officers get more comfortable with the darts and become more familiar with how to use them.
Things have been going along so well that a number of other law enforcement agencies in and around Denver have already said that they are very interested in trying StarChase out for themselves. It’s easy to see a time in the not-too-distant future where this or similar types of solutions begin to roll out in departments across the country.
As is always the case when GPS tracking is involved with law enforcement, one question that is immediately raised is one of privacy. Representatives from both the department and the ACLU say that when the darts are used as intended, they are totally legal under constitutional protections thanks to provisions regarding warrantless searching and tracking. A local Denver criminal defense attorney also said that they would be permissible in situations where an officer had probable cause to believe that a crime had been committed – something they absolutely have if you get pulled over and then speed away from an officer.