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New Haven police to crack down on drag racing with drones, GPS tracking and tire deflation

A still from a 2019 video YouTube titled “Street Drifters Take Over The Intersection” shows East Street jammed with people and cars smoking their tires.
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A still from a 2019 video YouTube titled “Street Drifters Take Over The Intersection” shows East Street jammed with people and cars smoking their tires.

New Haven mayor Justin Elicker and Chief of Police Karl Jacobson announced several new measures the city is imposing to crack down on drag racing, including drone and GPS surveillance of racers and devices that deflate tires.

At a press conference held on the same stretch of road that claimed the life of a 30-year-old man from Massachusetts last October, Jacobson gave a brief overview of some of the newer tools police are using to more safely apprehend unsafe drivers.

“We have StarChaser [sic] which is technology that allows officers to attach a GPS device to the vehicles,” Jacobson said. “So we do not chase — we wait and we monitor where the vehicle goes.”

Jacobson added that while the department has not had the opportunity yet to use the technology on drag racers, it has been successful at apprehending other perpetrators.

“I don’t want to get too much into it because I don't want to give away our tricks,” Jacobson said. “But we've been using [StarChase] since February 18th — more like a pilot program on situations such as violent crime situations or stolen cars.”

Jacobson said StarChase technology has been involved in 26 apprehensions. He said the department has also sent 20 police officers to drone pilot schools, and has trained about half the department on the use of “stop sticks” that deflate tires.

“You have to do it under certain circumstances to certain limitations to make sure people are safe,” Jacobson said of the stop sticks. “It's too dangerous to use it during the race, but it would be [used] if we were trying to stop them, and they were to flee at a lower speed.”

Elicker said these tools were necessary because simple patrols were not cutting it.

“If you have, maybe, 100 cars that are out here involved in drag racing — and I've gone with a police officer at 2 a.m. at night to see them in action — and you have one or two police cars responding, it is not safe for the those police officers to pull over one or two cars,” Elicker said. “It's not effective either.”

Elicker also said he is working to make changes to infrastructure on city- and state-owned roads to add more speed bumps and medians.

“Dirt bike racing, ATV, drag racing, all these things are going to continue to happen,” Elicker said. “But we are doing everything, slowly, to narrow the options and to address this, because our community deserves it.”

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