To see how the StarChase system works, launch the photo gallery by clicking “Slideshow” to the left. Also, listen in as host Jonathan Coulton grills the LAPD on their secret crime-fighting tech in Episode 5 of the PopSci Podcast.
Los Angeles, car capital of the country, is notorious for its epic police chases. O.J.-style pursuits may make for exciting TV, but the fatality statistics are sobering: Police chases kill, on average, one Californian every week. Now the Virginia-based company StarChase has proposed a safer way to catch fast-
moving crooks-shoot GPS homing devices like darts and stick them to the back of fleeing vehicles. Instead of a frantic pursuit, an officer eases off the chase and lets police headquarters track the suspect by computer. Police can then move in for a calmer arrest.
The StarChase system, which the Los Angeles Police Department will test this fall, consists of a laser-guided launcher and a miniaturized GPS tag complete with a radio transmitter and a blob of gummy adhesive. Once stuck to its target, the tag begins transmitting coordinates to a server through an encrypted cellular network. Computers superimpose the GPS data over a map that allows dispatchers to track the vehicle´s every move.
The LAPD trials will last five months. If all goes well, the department could purchase as many as 20 units by this time next year.