HOUSTON (FOX 26) - Houston Police Department estimates they see an average of two car chases each day. Most, they say, end in five minutes or less. On occasion, they go longer. At worst, they become fatal.
On Tuesday, a demonstration was held for media of two technologies that could reduce risks associated with a high speed chase.
"Our officers are exposed to dangerous situations every day," says demonstration leader Sergeant James Turner, Houston Police Department Office of Planning. "High-speed chase is certainly one of the more dangerous circumstances they can find themselves in."
The two technologies, shown at Houston Police Department Driver Training facility, were Knigh Hawk and Star Chase.
Knight Hawk is a black suitecase-like box placed to the side of the road ahead of a fleeing vehicle. The officer presses a button to deploy a strip of spikes across the road in 1.7 seconds, capable of puncturing all four tires. The strip retracts in 1.7 seconds, allowing police to move through with no damage. The tool eliminates the need for officers to be near the road while when deploying spikes.
The other was Star Chase, a digital tracking system. When a driver tries to flee, a GSP device is shot onto the rear of the vehicle. A puffy grey adhesive attaches the device firmly and nearly instantly, but causes no damage when removed. Officers deploy it from a remote, then hang back as dispatch officers follow the location, speed, and direction of the vehicle.
"Statistics show that once we do back off, turn off lights sirens, the suspect slows down," explained Sergeant Turner. "It still gives us the ability to track the target and move in for an arrest when that vehicle comes to a safe stop."
In May of 2015, Houston Police Officer Richard Martin was killed while setting a spike strip to stop a speeding vehicle in Houston. Turner said the technology demonstrated today could keep officers from meeting the same fate.
One concern not yet clear with the Star Chase system is how it will fare under fourth amendment rulings. FOX 26 News legal experts explain tracking a vehicle with a GPS device is legally considered a search, thus requiring a warrant under constitutional law. In a case of quick pursuit, warrants may not be readily available. Star Chase's website claims they are fourth amendment compliant, but even police officials expect use of this tool to show up in court cases over the coming years.
For Houston, police are still developing policy around use of Knight Hawk and Star Chase. They hope to roll out both tools within the coming year.