CRIME
11/01/2013 09:29 am ET

On The Run From The Law? Watch Out For Police Car GPS Cannons (VIDEO)

Police chases are dangerous and expensive for taxpayers.

A long pursuit in Phoenix on Wednesday ended when an SUV plowed into another vehicle at an intersection, then ran into a palm tree. An unmarked police vehicle sustained damage trying to stop two suspected burglars.

Now police won't have to pursue you to stay on your tail. A new cannon called Starchase -- now being tested in Iowa and Florida -- shoots large "bullets" containing GPS trackers that stick to a vehicle during the chase.

These cannons are mounted on patrol cars. Once a suspect vehicle is tagged, officers can back off and follow its movements without the dangers of high speed and confrontation.

It may seem like a spy trick out of a science fiction movie, but the new system is already taking down suspects, Sgt. Scott Bright with the Iowa State Patrol told HuffPost Crime.

"It's a great tool -- it really solves a liability issue," Bright said. "There was no squad car damage. Nobody was injured, and we retrieved the vehicle. It's a win all around for us."

Last Wednesday, a trooper in Council Bluffs ran a license plate and found the vehicle may have been stolen. When he flipped on his lights, the suspect gave chase. With the press of a button, a chamber in his patrol vehicle's grill popped open, and a cylinder -- containing a GPS tracker and covered in adhesive -- deployed, hitting the suspect's license plate.

Police were able to track the car's movements to Omaha without pursuing the suspect on the road. He was arrested a short time later.

The price tag might seem expensive. It's $5,000 for the system and each bullet costs taxpayers $500, CNET reports.

Still, that's nothing compared to the property damage done to police cruisers and other vehicles during a normal car chase, Bright said.

The SUV that was run off the road in Phoenix Wednesday, for example, obliterated a Lexus that was passing by, and did property damage when it ran into the patrol vehicle as well as the palm tree. Four people were taken to area hospitals, AZ Family reports.

Bright said his fleet has only one Starchase, but the state plans on adding more, specifically for pursuits. The Iowa State Patrol was involved in 87 chases between October 2012 and October 2013.

The system does offer up a legal question, though. Des Moines Police Sgt. Jason Halifax wonders how prosecutors will prove who was driving the vehicle during a chase, when all police have is GPS information, the New York Post reports.

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