Lawbreakers who think they have outrun their police pursuers could be in for a nasty surprise. A compressed-air launcher mounted in a police car grille allows law enforcement officers to place a GPS tracking tag on fleeing vehicles for safe tracking from another location.

ChaseThe police department in Readington Township, NJ is the first community in that state to use this new technology. Officers are required to consider public health and safety when making on-the-job decisions, so high-speed chases are a last resort. Any such pursuits are reviewed by the State Police and reported to the NJ Office of the Attorney General.

In a bit of serendipity, the Readington force acquired the GPS tagging unit for free. The unit retails for several thousands of dollars, but they received it due to the generosity of Brett Matheis, police chief of nearby Clinton.

Matheis attended an International Chiefs of Police Association Training Conference in Philadelphia with Sebastian Donaruma, police chief of Readington. The two viewed a 15-minute demonstration of the pursuit system given by manufacturer StarChase. When Matheis won a drawing for one of the units, he donated it to the Readington Township force.

The town of Clinton is only 1.2 square miles, so Matheis felt the larger municipality of Readington would be better served by the system. Clinton Mayor Janice Kovach agreed with the gesture, stating, “We’re all about working together.” In addition to benefiting Readington’s police force, the tracker allows them to assist State Police and other neighboring communities.

At present, garden-variety speeders have nothing to fear from the new system. Its use is governed by a strict set of rules stating that officers cannot engage the tracking unless someone is fleeing the police or a judge has granted prior permission. The actual GPS unit is smaller than a tennis ball, making it unlikely to be detected by the individual being tracked.

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