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LAPD patrol cars to get sticky-GPS-tracker cannon?

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Los Angeles cops will be able to fire sticky GPS tracker devices at fleeing miscreants' cars as of next year, according to reports.

The StarChase Pursuit Management System uses compressed-air laser-sighted launchers mounted at the front of a patrol car to fire "a miniature GPS receiver, battery and radio transmitter, embedded in an epoxy compound," according to its makers. The radio data channel is cellular, which means that absconding villains can be tracked anywhere within network coverage.

The idea of StarChase is that it could reduce the need for dangerous high-speed pursuits, letting cops fall back and track their quarry at leisure rather than burning rubber aggressively. Then, presumably, other units could move to trap the bandits later on, when the tactical situation was more favourable.

StarChase went through beta testing with the LAPD in 2006. At that time LAPD Chief Willian Bratton said "we believe this technology and the trials associated with it, will potentially give police officers yet another tool to minimize the damaging risks associated with high-speed pursuits. My goal is to protect not only my officers, but the general public as well.”

Now Wired magazine suggests that the LA plods will be fielding the kit to the street next year. The magazine quotes Sergeant Dan Gomez of the LAPD Tactical Technology Unit as saying that StarChase "has real James Bond appeal."

We hate to cast the first bucket of cold water, but this doesn't seem terribly practical. You'd probably hear the trackers splatting into the back of your car - they'd need to be flying fast. If not, you'd notice the targeting lasers glaring from the pursuing police cruiser. If you miss all of that, the cops giving up or dropping back would surely be a warning sign.

So switch on your combined GPS/cellular jammer - legal for US purchase. Or stop briefly, scrape off the sticky bug with a knife, and throw it away - or better still stick it to another vehicle. Or put it in a tin can or smash it with a hammer, if you want to silence it. You might want to do these things in a tunnel or enclosed car park.

Etc, etc. You'd need to be a pretty dumb villain for this sort of thing to be much good. Wired reckons that StarChase might put a lot of news chopper pilots out of work. Probably not, actually. It surely won't put many police pilots on the dole.®

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