Law enforcement is opting to use GPS tracking darts as a way to prevent risky pursuits.

Police Departments Utilizing GPS Tracking Darts to Reduce High-Speed Chases

One of the most common spy movie tropes is the protagonist’s ability to tag a suspect with a discreet tracking dart from afar. That way, they can covertly track bad guys wherever they go. Well, it’s no longer a spy movie gimmick – it’s reality, as police departments have begun labeling fleeing vehicles with GPS trackers, eliminating the need for high-speed pursuit.

The Old Westbury Police Department in New York is leading the way in using vehicle-mounted launchers that fire foam projectiles with a sticky, heat-activated glue at fleeing vehicles in a car chase. The projectiles have built-in wireless GPS tracking systems, which allow police to track the car’s whereabouts. These launchers and darts are made by Star Chase, which also rents portable units to the NYPD, among other departments. The primary goal is to eliminate car chases, which are dangerous and often put the population at risk.

Police Chief Stuart Cameron of the Old Westbury Police Department emphasized the importance of discouraging police chases, citing statistics that show suspects, officers, and even members of the public are injured or killed during these activities. By using GPS tracking darts, law enforcement agencies aim to reduce the risk associated with high-speed pursuits.

The launchers are mounted on the front of police cars, enabling officers to chase a fleeing vehicle long enough to tag it with a sticky dart. Once tagged, officers can back off and track the vehicle’s location using the built-in GPS system. The darts, propelled by compressed air, travel at approximately 30 mph and stick to the target without causing damage.

While the use of GPS tracking darts is gaining popularity in various states like Michigan, Tennessee, Texas, and Washington, concerns about their constitutionality have been raised. Some argue that tracking civilian vehicles with these devices may violate Fourth Amendment rights. In the 2012 Supreme Court case United States v. Jones, it was ruled that GPS tracking of a car without a warrant constitutes an unlawful search. However, the ACLU has stated that as long as the darts are used in a manner that respects individual rights, they can be a valuable tool for law enforcement.

GPS tracking darts are not a new technology, but their increasing use among law enforcement agencies raises both ethical and legal questions. While the idea of police tracking vehicles in this manner may seem intrusive, when used responsibly, these devices have the potential to prevent dangerous accidents and protect public safety.

As police departments continue to adopt GPS tracking darts as a tool to reduce high-speed chases, the debate over their use and effectiveness is likely to persist. While some may view them as a necessary measure to enhance public safety, others may raise valid concerns about privacy and civil liberties. Ultimately, striking a balance between law enforcement’s need for effective tools and safeguarding individual rights will be crucial in the ongoing discussion surrounding GPS tracking darts.

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