On March 11, Alejandro Torrez, 16, was driving his mother's 2005 Chrysler sedan 90 miles per hour on U.S. route 131 in Kentwood, Michigan, when a  state police officer tried to pull him over. Torrez, who didn't have a license, took an exit ramp and pulled his vehicle over. But after about 15 seconds, Torrez sped off and led police on a high-speed chase that lasted about five minutes before ending in tragedy.

Torrez crashed into a vehicle driven by 21-year-old college student Tara Oskam, who died at the scene. Torrez's 15-year-old cousin David Torrez, who was a passenger in the fleeing vehicle, also died. Officers pulled Alejandro Torrez from the wreckage, but he was seriously wounded, according to local reports.  

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In the days following the accident, the Michigan State Police defended the decision to pursue the vehicle. High-speed vehicle chases are extremely dangerous. At least 11,506 people were killed in police chases between 1979 and 2013, an average of 329 people a year. Police departments have different policies about how and when to engage in vehicular pursuits, but often it's up to officers to decide to weigh the safety of pedestrians, other drivers, suspects and themselves and in order to decide whether to give chase.

But a new technology used by more than 100 police departments across the country could mean officers aren't forced to make the choice between engaging a dangerous pursuit and letting suspects go. Instead, they can simply use a device reminiscent of a Batmobile gadget to track suspect vehicles wherever they go. 

Virginia-based StarChase LLC is the manufacturer of the StarChase GPS pursuit management system. The system consists of a small launcher with two GPS tracking devices affixed to the front of a police cruiser. Officers can fire the GPS tracking devices from inside or outside their vehicle. The devices are similar to darts: they fire and stick onto the bumper of a vehicle ahead of them, which the system targets with laser technology. The tracking device then uses GPS technology to relay the vehicle's location to dispatchers, allowing police to back off their pursuit and track the vehicle's location from afar. 

Of course, suspects can always abandon cars and flee on foot. And license plates already can lead officers to vehicle's owners. But the technology minimizes the need to engage in pursuits — when it works. When the Milwaukee Police Department started a pilot program to evaluate the StarChase in 2016, they found trackers stuck to the vehicle about 50 percent of the time, but expected that rate to improve as officers became comfortable with the technology, which has a $5,000 price tag for each unit.