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Cops in British Columbia are using GPS darts to catch drivers who won't stop

Cops in BC are using GPS darts to catch speeders

Police in the Vancouver suburb of Delta are starting to fire darts with GPS tracking on them at speeding vehicles that refuse to stop.

It’s the first time the technology, widely used by police in the US and seen as a safer alternative to high speed chases, is being deployed in Canada.

And it’s the latest example of police in the BC lower mainland taking new steps to crack down on crime. Last year, the mayor of Surrey gave police real time access to traffic cameras at intersections to help curb gang warfare spilling onto the street. Surrey also launched a crowdsourced database of security cameras around the city in November.

In nearby Delta, cops had apparently been having a hard time pulling people over.

Over 70 vehicles failed to stop when police attempted to pull them over last year, Delta police spokeswoman Sharlene Brooks told VICE News.  

“With that, some frustration grows within the ranks because we don’t have as many tools as we can to capture the offender while still maintaining public safety because we know the risks of engaging in a pursuit are significantly high to the public, to the police officer, and as well, to the offender,” Brooks said.  

The StarChase Pursuit Management Technology lets officers launch GPS projectiles from the grills of their cars onto vehicles trying to evade stops, and track them until they come to a stop.

Delta police would not disclose the distance the dart could cover in order to maintain their “tactical advantage.”  

“When it comes to a stop, we’ll be able to have our resources coordinated to move in and deal with the offender at that point,” said Brooks, who would not go into details like the distance the dart could cover in order to maintain their “tactical advantage.”  

Eight police cars have been equipped with the system, financed by the Delta Police Foundation at a cost of about $1,500 per vehicle, and so far there are no plans to expand. Over the next year, police will evaluate their usefulness.

On Wednesday, a police officer used the technology for the first time after he noticed a person driving erratically, said Brooks. The officer was in a marked police car and found it strange that the driver didn’t pull over. Growing suspicious, he launched the dart and made contact.

Ultimately the car did stop and there was no attempt to flee — it turned out the driver was new and inexperienced and received violation tickets, Brooks said.  

“We are now looking forward to seeing this technology in action. However, we do recognize there is no one tool that serves as a ;silver bullet’ to solve any one issue,” said police chief Neil Dubord. “I do believe it is incumbent on us to employ advanced technology options that may assist us in our efforts to be effective at doing our job while mitigating risk to the public.”

Cover: Illustration by Ben Ruby/VICE Canada

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