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Independence police employ new technology for safer approach to high-speed chases

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INDEPENDENCE, Mo. -- It's one of the most dangerous things police are made to do. High-speed pursuits just got easier for officers in Independence, after some new technology is put to use, meant to help police safely catch runaway criminals.

GPS is being used for more than just driving directions. The Independence Police Department is now using it for safer high-speed chases with a device called Star Chase.

"We can't control the actions of the bad guy, but it's their duty and responsibility to pull over and stop for us," Officer John Syme said. "There are crashes that are involved in pursuits. Innocent people can be hurt. This technology helps avoid that."

Independence police say they're hopeful high-speed pursuits will be safer. Statistics have shown the public is often caught up in chases, as police drive at high speeds to catch fleeing suspects. Star Chase requires police to catch up to criminals within a few feet, as a tiny dart is shot from an air compressed gun on the cruiser's front end.

The dart is a GPS tracking unit that sticks to the fleeing car, allowing the officer to back off and follow at safer speeds. The GPS tracker also sends real time information back to police dispatchers.

"With this technology," Syme added. "We can back off and watch it on a computer screen somewhere else, and know where it's going and arrest the person later."

Officer Syme says Star Chase has been in use by Independence police for a couple of months. He wouldn't say how many arrests its helped police make. However, police say it's protecting the public. Police say there have been no crashes or injuries related to high-speed chases since Star Chase was deployed.

Independence police say theirs is the first law enforcement agency in the metro to use a GPS system in this manner.