New technology first in state at York County Sheriff’s Department to prevent liability, injury in high-speed pursuits

YORK COUNTY – Brand new technology – the first to be used in the State of Nebraska – is being utilized at the York County Sheriff’s Department in an effort to limit liability and risk to deputies as well as the traveling public when it comes to high-speed pursuits.

The York County Sheriff’s Department has purchased $40,000 worth of new technology – all paid by drug-related seizure money – to install state-of-the-art devices intended to minimize public safety risk and the county’s third-party liability.

And it’s the first to be used in Nebraska.

Sgt. Taylor Samek explained how Starchase technology has resulted in a “launcher” being installed  on the front of the cruisers.

Instead of high-speed chases – which endanger deputies and the public and property – the sheriff’s department now has the ability to approach fleeing vehicles, get within a distance of 25 feet and launch a tracking device which sticks to the back of the perpetrator’s vehicle.

“At that point, once the tracking device is attached, we then back off, minimizing danger,” Samek said.

Once the tracking device is attached, the software tells law enforcement exactly where the vehicle is at all times, including where it eventually stops, “so law enforcement agencies can take the person into custody.” That can happen locally or in other parts of the state as the information is shared with multiple agencies.

Right now, the York County Sheriff’s Department has the device installed on three cruisers – they hope to have the same on all vehicles in the fall.

“This is a game changer,” said York County Sheriff’s Investigator Alex Hildebrand. “This will save on our liability and it will save lives – of our people and of the public.”

The new technology went live in May – all the 911 dispatchers and deputies have been trained how to use it.

“It’s really important, as we have a healthy amount of pursuits, being along Interstate 80, which originate here, come in here, exit here,” said Captain Josh Gillespie. “This is an avenue we can use to apprehend the offenders but also keep people safe.”

They demonstrated how the device works. The “shooter” is installed on the front of the cruisers – when in a short distance away from the vehicle in question, they deploy the GPS tracker, it attaches to the vehicle in question and the GPS system tracks the situation from there.

All from the York County Sheriff’s Department agree pursuits have vastly increased in the last three years – the consensus is that the York County department has been involved in “at least 35-50, if not more.”

Hildebrand said York County law enforcement is involved, in some way, with a pursuit, at least two to three times a month.

“We hosted a demo day, with other agencies and the vendor, and it was very well attended,” Sgt. Samek said. “I think other agencies will soon be jumping in as well, because this could be, as said earlier, really a game changer.”

“Any way we can mitigate risk factors for the public and our deputies, we need to do that,” Hildebrand said.

Hildebrand also noted it’s easier for the tags to be launched, targeted and attacked at a high speed. Well, that’s for experienced law enforcement officers. They demonstrated their ability with successful attachments and tracking.

“The technology is a very unique tracking system,” York County Sheriff Paul Vrbka said. “We wanted to do this, due to the increased number of pursuits we find ourselves in, as well as throughout Nebraska. It makes things safer for the public and the officers.”

“This is forward thinking,” Sgt. Samek said. “It makes it safer for the public and helps us apprehend the perpetrators in the end.”

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