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Dori Monson

Moses Lake police use Batman-like tech to track suspects

The GPS devices are a cylinder with adhesive at one end. (Star Chase)

It’s something you would expect to see Batman deploy from the Batmobile. Or perhaps some spy tech utilized by James Bond from an Alfa Romeo. But rather, if you want to see this brand of high-tech crime fighting around Washington, you have to travel to Moses Lake where officers are using the tracking devices to take down criminals.

“This technology is, basically, a system that is installed in the front of a patrol car that would allow an officer to shoot a projectile from the front of the patrol car to a fleeing vehicle,” said Moses Lake Police Chief Kevin Fuhr.

Related: The conundrum stalling Seattle police’s body cam program

That projectile is a GPS device coated with adhesive. It looks similar to a shotgun shell. It is launched from an air compressor at the front of the patrol car and, ideally, will stick to the back of a fleeing vehicle.

“At that point, we can follow that car with the GPS mapping program,” Fuhr said.

“My hope is that once that car is tagged, and we are following it on GPS, dispatch is deploying all officers or agencies responding to that incident to where that vehicle is headed,” he said. “So if the suspect decided, ‘Hey, I’m going to stop real quick and take this thing off,’ I would hope for the minute or so that they would do that, we would be on scene.”

Fuhr said that no technology works 100 percent of the time, but as long as these GPS trackers work a majority of the time in Moses Lake, it will hopefully cut down on dangerous chases that have unfortunate ends.

The units cost about $5,000 each, the chief said. Moses Lake has paid for two patrol vehicles to be outfitted with them. The only reason that the police department came across the GPS devices, Fuhr notes, is because the Washington Cities Insurance Authority came to them with a small grant to give it a try.

“We said, ‘That’s outstanding, let’s do it,’” Fuhr said. “We were fortunate enough to get a small grant to purchase two of these systems to put on our cars. If this works the way I think it will work, I’m going to push it out to chiefs and say, ‘Guys, this is an inexpensive way to keep your staff and community safe.’”

“This is phenomenal technology,” he said. “Frankly, this is a game changer for us. Pursuits, unfortunately, are part of law enforcement. There are times when we need to get people off the street, yet in cases, they end tragically. And that is what we are trying to keep from happening.”

Dori Monson on KIRO Radio 97.3 FM

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About the Author

Dyer Oxley

Dyer Oxley joined the MyNorthwest.com team in April 2015. He graduated from Portland State University and has worked as a reporter in the Puget Sound region since 2011. Email Dyer at roxley@mynorthwest.com

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