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Out-thinking the crooks

March 24, 1997

In yesterday's edition of The Herald-Mail, reporter Clyde Ford described what happened after Shepherdstown Police Officer Billy Carper decided to pursue a 1997 Ford Mustang with an extra-loud muffler. Instead of stopping when Carper turned on his flashing lights, the vehicle fled. The chase eventually resulted in the capture of two suspects in the murder of Theodore "Ted" Compton, which is a good thing. But there's another point to consider.

At one point, the chase reached speeds of 120 miles per hour on W.Va. 9, a winding, hilly road that is dangerous even at the posted speed limit. Jefferson County Deputy Mark Roby said he was able to keep up only because the driver kept getting caught behind slower-moving traffic. Some suspects aren't so respectful of other drivers.

On Saturday, Hagerstown police chased a suspect who led them on a high-speed trek they say featured wrong-way travel on one-way streets and an attempt to ram pursuing police vehicles.

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Three departments were involved and three police vehicles sustained damage, not to mention the danger the chase posed to other motorists. There's got to be a better way.

Fortunately, there is. After the Nov. 24 death of Amanda Smailes, an Inwood, W.Va. woman killed when a vehicle being chased by police rammed her car, The Herald-Mail took the stand that there should be some modern technology to halt vehicles without putting bystanders at risk.

Following the Dec. 2 editorial, we were contacted by Letitia E. Landry, a representative of STOPP - Solutions To Tragedies of Police Pursuits. Landry said the National Technology Transfer System in Wheeling, W.Va was working on a device that injects valved spikes into the pursued vehicle's tires, slowly deflating them.

At least two companies market such a device and the Maryland State Police have reportedly purchased one type. It is time for all local departments to do the same, and work out a plan to act in concert when suspects head for state lines. It's time to start out-thinking those who believe they can out-run the police.

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