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Twin Cities Officers Using Discreet Tracking Device To Safely Follow Stolen Cars

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Police officers and sheriff's deputies around the Twin Cities have a new way to catch car thieves without having to chase them.

Four departments around the metro are deploying a unique tracking device that looks like it could be out of James Bond movie. It's called StarChase, and it's a GPS tracking tool that launches a dart-like cartridge from the front of squad car onto the rear of a stolen vehicle, allowing police to track the car without physically following it.

"I think it will help us recover a lot more stolens in a safe manner," said Ramsey County Deputy Joe Kill, one of three deputies in the department currently trying the technology.

The StarChase dart's tip has an adhesive layer, helping it stick to the suspected stolen car. The dart also has a magnet to make sure it stays attached.

Kill says he uses StarChase specifically when he comes across a stolen car, as it allows him to take a stealth approach.

"As soon as you hit your lights and sirens, they're fleeing from you," Kill said. "Or we can back off, not chase it, follow it on a computer [with StarChase] until it lands, and then come in and make an arrest or recover the vehicle."

The technology's main benefit is public safety. Police chases are dangerous for the officers, suspects and the general public.

Last fall, Laneal Frazier died in Minneapolis when an officer crashed into his car while pursuing a stolen vehicle.

"We're trying to use different techniques right now to help us safely take down a suspect instead of chasing people through the cities at a high rate of speed, where somebody could get injured or killed," Kill said.

Grant money is funding the three squads in Ramsey County that currently have StarChase, but Kill hopes it doesn't stop there.

"I think having every car equipped with it would greatly help," he said.

Ramsey County has been using the technology for about three weeks. Kill has deployed his device at least once.

In order for the device to be used, vehicle owners need to give permission to police to track their stolen vehicle.

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