ARVADA, Colo. — A new type of GPS technology is promising to change police work in a big way in Colorado.
The Arvada Police Department has become the first and so far only law enforcement agency in the state to use GPS darts to track suspect vehicles.
The darts are deployed from squad cars, serving as an alternative to dangerous high-speed pursuits.
StarChase darts use real time GPS imaging, giving officers a strategic advantage. Many times, the darts allow officers to stop high-speed pursuits or prevent them from ever happening, according to police.
“The main objective of having something like this is to keep our officers safe and to keep our community safe,” Arvada police spokeswoman Jill McGranahan said.
The darts use adhesive materials and proprietary technology that prevents suspects from removing the devices.
“We help to provide a de-escalation path for law enforcement,” StarChase president Trevor Fischbach said.
As the technology becomes more common, police hope perpetrators will think twice about speeding away when they see police lights in their rearview mirrors.
Arvada police and ACLU leaders say GPS darts, used as intended, are legal under constitutional protections against warrantless searching and tracking.
“That would seem to be permissible if, of course, [police officers] had probable cause to believe there’s been a crime committed.” Denver criminal defense attorney Kimberly Diego said.
The cost for a law enforcement agency is roughly $5,000 to outfit each squad car. That includes training for officers.
StarChase said subsequent years cost law enforcement agencies about $1,000 per squad car. StarChase said it has no direct competition, but the company does compete regularly to persuade agencies to make the investment.
“There’s always competition for dollars,” Fischbach said. “Law enforcement … generally they are tragically underfunded.”
For the Arvada Police Department and agencies in more than 30 states, the technology has proved to be beneficial.
Arvada has been using the darts for the past nine months. McGranahan said officers have seen an 85 percent success rate.
That is expected to get better as officers continue to become more comfortable with the darts.
Some agencies that invested in the darts early on have been using the technology for more than five years. A handful of law enforcement agencies in the Denver metro area have said they are interested in investing in GPS darts.