The department is currently using spike strips and traffic cameras to catch car thieves and prevent chases.
CENTRALIA, Wash. Centralia Police Chief Stacy Denham said his department had to get creative to chase criminals.
“I challenged my officers to think up new methods to get the job done and they responded,” says Denham.
In 2021, state lawmakers passed the strictest restrictions on police pursuits.
The Washington Association of Sheriffs and Sheriffs blames the increase in crime, especially car theft, on the policy.
Denham said criminals know they won’t be chased for property crimes, like catalytic converter theft or car theft, and they’re taking advantage of the law.
“They’re smart, they know what they’re doing,” says Denham, “It allows them to actually fall victim to more people. That is not good.”
But Denham said his office has recovered more stolen vehicles this spring than in the past two years.
He believes there is a network of cameras programmed to identify the license plates of criminal vehicles.
The city is renting 20 Herd safety camera during a two-month trial that ends in July.
Denham said he will be going to board members to ask for funding, more than $50,000, to sign a two-year agreement with the company.
Denham said his officers are using information from the cameras to track down car thieves without having to chase them.
When a camera takes an officer to the location of a stolen car, the officer will wait until the vehicle is parked to approach the vehicle.
The police then put a strip of spikes in front of one of the tires, called the Terminator, so if the suspect drove away, the tire would go flat.
“We are waiting for them. We wanted to prevent them from running away so we wouldn’t lose them in pursuit,” Denham said.
The devices are making a difference, Denham said, but not as much as allowing officers to go after criminals again.
“Even with Flock Safety, even with Terminator, the problem we had was that we still had a lot of cars running away from us, stolen cars. We went behind and tried to stop it. stop them, that’s the only way we have. They take them and when they take off we have to let them go. That’s all we can do.”
The next two-year state budget approved a $3 million grant for police agencies to acquire “modern vehicle tracking” technology, including GPS devices, marine cameras. numbers and drones.