Police Pursuits-A national epidemic                                                      Home
According to Dr. Geoffrey Alpert, Director of Research for the College of Criminal Justice at the University of South Carolina and nationally recognized expert on police pursuits, 40% of police pursuits end in crashes, 20% in personal injury, and 1% in death. Since pioneering the formal study of police pursuits in 1985 he has observed that these numbers are remarkably consistent from study to study, from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, and regardless of pursuit policy.

Another statistical trend that can be taken from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's
Fatality Analysis Reporting System(FARS) is that of the 300-400 fatalities reported each year 2/3 are suspects, or passengers of their vehicles, and 1/3 are innocent bystanders.

For many reasons the FARS data is recognized by most experts as incomplete and under-reported.
    -The system is voluntary.
    -Many fatalities may occur hours or days after the initial report.
    -Fatalities may not be classified as pursuit related mistakenly or by design.
Best estimates are that the data is under-reported by a factor of 2-3 times.

In a recent 2 week period (11/22/03 to 12/5/03) PursuitWatch has collected news stories that document 27 pursuit deaths. This is an annualized rate of 705 deaths per year-approximately twice the number predicted by the FARS numbers.

We can extrapolate some shocking numbers from this data:

Annual: FARS Data PursuitWatch Data
Pursuits 35,000 70,000
Crashes 14,000 28,000
Injuries 7,000 14,000
Total Deaths 350 700
Bystander Deaths 118 236


Sobering numbers. Given the fact that several studies have shown that fewer than 17% of pursuits are for an underlying serious felony. The shocking fact is that 29,000 to 58,000 pursuits, resulting in 6,000 to 12,000 injuries, are undertaken for traffic, misdemeanor, or property crimes. Up to 4,000 injuries to innocent bystanders each year for crimes that usually result in a simple fine or a slap on the wrist. It is time to stop the insanity.

James Phillips
12/7/03

 

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