New technology aimed at preventing dangerous police pursuits
Mt. Morris, N.Y. (WHAM) - The decision to pursue a suspect is one of the most difficult decisions police and deputies face on the road. Livingston County Sheriff Tom Dougherty hopes new technology in the county will help make those potentially dangerous pursuits a thing of the past.
The Sheriff's Office is the first in New York State to install StarChase. The device uses a compressed air-launcher, a laser and a GPS tracker to tag fleeing suspect's vehicles and stop pursuits.
"This allows the deputy to back off. The offender will continue on and when they ultimately come to a stop you can take them into custody," said Dougherty.
911 dispatch and deputies on the road are able to track a suspect's vehicle online once it's tagged.
The Livingston County Sheriff's Office currently has a few of them, but it plans to add more over time. Each StarChase unit costs $5,000. The GPS trackers cost $250 each.
Dougherty said Tuesday that cost is marginal compared to what could happen if deputies are involved in a chase that ends with a crash.
"One crash could cost our county millions in a lawsuit,' said Dougherty. "Any pursuit can turn deadly at any time and the biggest thing you worry about are innocent bystanders."
The department is paying for the devices, in part, with money it saved from adjusting its vehicle fleet and maintenance routine.
The technology is the latest in a string of newer gadgets in the Livingston County Sheriff's Office. It was one of the first in the state to acquire a drone. That came through a state grant.
A recently-acquired armored truck came through a federal grant and didn't cost taxpayers locally according to Dougherty.
"We brought it back here and painted it and outfitted it for our SWAT team," said Dougherty. "That cost $15,000. I used drug dealers' money for that."
The advances in technology are something Dougherty says are necessary to keep up.
"If people don't think criminals are using technology to get ahead and commit crimes, then you're not paying attention," said Dougherty.