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The street smarts of police pursuits
Dear Street Smarts, Q: Thanks for the informative column about horns. I found it most informative although my own personal nemesis was not addressed – I find the use of the car horn to signal that a car door has been locked or opened is a despicable assault on others nearby. I think those devices should be banned and subject to fine in public places. Let me take this opportunity to suggest a topic for a later column. (A recent article in the) Sentinel describes a high speed chase from Pleasure Point to near Salinas. As I have noted to Mr. Baxter his report failed to discuss the nature of the high speed chase before it reached Highway 1, a distance of 1.5- to 3-miles, depending on which of the three routes the robbers drove. So, it would be of great interest to this reader to hear from each agency what the policy is regarding high speed chases in residential areas. Earlier this year, one high speed chase ended in the DeLavega neighborhood when the woman fleeing (police) tried to cross Highway 1 via the La Fonda bridge, which had been removed. Since then, another Highway 1 chase ended when the vehicle got stuck in traffic in the same construction zone. You have a great job Ramona! So much to do and so little space! Thanks, Bill Delaney, Capitola A: Street Smarts put the call out to the county's various law enforcement agencies and each have similar policies – officers and their supervisors weigh the impact on public safety should officers allow the suspect to get away versus engaging in a pursuit. “The high speed chase he is referring to was the pursuit of a car load of armed robbers,” said Sgt. Matt Eller, of the Capitola Police Department. “No matter why they are being chased, officers and their supervisors must constantly assess the reason for the stop, threat to public safety, identification, roadway conditions and if they have been identified – can we get them later.” Also, supervisors who are monitoring the chase can and do terminate the chase when they feel the conditions have become unsafe for the public and/or the officer(s) involved. “Vehicle pursuits seem to come in batches,” said Deputy Chief Steve Clark, of the Santa Cruz Police Department. “We’ll go for a couple of months without anything, then all of the sudden everyone we stop wants to flee. We probably average 10-12 vehicle pursuits a year. Foot chases happen weekly.” As for the CHP, they've logged around 20 pursuits this year, said officer Sarah Jackson, spokesperson for the Santa Cruz Area office. Each department reviews policies a least once a year, with the CHP's officers and supervisors receiving pursuit training once each quarter. “One thing to keep in mind: Pursuits are initiated by a violator who fails to yield to the lawful commands of a law enforcement officer to pull over and stop,” said Jackson.