The Thrill and Price of Police Chases

Kalish said his department was involved in more than 500 pursuits last year. He said that in a "vast majority" of the cases, dangerous criminals were apprehended.

Still, hundreds of departments around the country have opted to pursue suspects only in extreme situations, and they say they've had no resulting crime increase.

New Car-Catching Devices

Police are also looking for alternative ways to stop a fleeing suspect. The "car catcher," for example, is a net that catches high-speed vehicles, but the device needs a fair amount of setup time. The "carpoon," being developed in Finland, actually harpoons a fleeing vehicle and drags it to a stop. And the "road patriot" is a jet-propelled skateboard that shorts out a car's electrical system.

"The only technological device that's shown any kind of promise so far is the spike strips," said Capt. Sid Heal of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. The device is a strip that has hollow spikes that stick up, puncturing a vehicle's tires.

"In order for that to be effective, you have to be there first," he added.

Such far-flung ideas show just how hard-pressed police are for answers.

"What if we had no pursuits?" asked Kalish. "Society would pay an incredible price."

Onossian agrees that sometimes high-speed chases are crucial. "I just think that they need to change the way they do it," she said. "There has to be restrictions on it. Because people don't realize how dangerous it is."

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