ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office is using new technology to track pursuit suspects in an effort to keep the public safe from the dangerous criminals.
Bernalillo County has seen it too many times: a suspect fleeing law enforcement crashes into an innocent person, killing or hurting them.
Seven years ago, as police pursued bank robber Jeremiah Jackson, Jackson slammed into a car with Janice Flores and Kimberly Aragon Nunez, killing them.
Just this June, Albuquerque Police followed closely as they say David Barber drove erratically in an RV around town, until he crashed into a car driven by Tito Pacheco and killed him.
Now, BCSO says it’s the first department in the state to use something called “StarChase.” It’s a GPS tracking system for deputies to use during pursuits, meant to keep the public, deputies and even the suspect safer.
“That’s one thing we’ve taken a good hard look at with our administration and our staff, to figure out what can we do to make these outcomes the most positive possible,” Sheriff Manuel Gonzales said.
In exigent circumstances only, a GPS tracker is launched at the suspect vehicle with an adhesive side out, sticking onto it. It doesn’t dent the car and doesn’t remove any paint.
BCSO provided video of the tracker, which shows how it shoots from the front grill of a patrol unit onto a vehicle.
The goal is to allow deputies to back off once it’s launched and track the car from further away. Hopefully, then, the suspect won’t drive as dangerously.
Since late June, the sheriff says the GPS tracker has been launched 18 times with 15 “successful” incidents. It’s unclear if all 15 entailed an arrest and stolen property recovered, or just one of the two.
Sheriff Gonzales admits, StarChase is not perfect.
“This isn’t the cure-all,” he said. The deputy has to be close enough for the GPS tracker to hit it, for one.
Suspects can still ditch the vehicle and try to make a getaway on foot. However, BCSO believes as long as they can get to the vehicle, there’s a better chance they’ll get the crook. Oftentimes, criminals go to the home of friends or family, and leave a ‘paper trail’ in the vehicle for investigators.
“There’s a great chance that they’re going to be apprehended, and there’s also going to be a great chance that the vehicle is going to be recovered,” he said.
He believes, so far, this is a better way to handle pursuits.
“In this case, we feel that the citizens are going to be safer, our deputies are going to be safer,” he said.
The cost to get the program off the ground was $30,000 with an annual cost of $10,000, the sheriff said. He wouldn’t disclose how many patrol cars have them so far, but that the goal is to equip all of the department’s 150 or more units.