Berkeley police arrested teenage suspects in a stolen car earlier this month with the help of a GPS tracker that's been touted as a safer alternative to police pursuits.
The Berkeley Police Association shared several details about the arrests in a recent Instagram post. The Scanner sought additional information from the department this week.
According to Berkeley police, on Nov. 6, the Alameda County Sheriff's Office and San Leandro police had attempted to stop a stolen vehicle that was linked to a strong-arm robbery.
They were unable to stop the car but the sheriff's office managed to attach a GPS tracker to it using a "launcher" device made by a company called StarChase, authorities said.
Shortly after 8:10 p.m. that night, the sheriff's office notified Berkeley police that the stolen vehicle, a Hyundai sedan, had just entered Berkeley city limits, BPD said.
The sheriff's office gave BPD turn-by-turn directions to the location of the stolen Hyundai thanks to the StarChase tracker, authorities said.
Berkeley officers stopped the car in the 5400 block of College Avenue, near the Oakland Public Library in Rockridge, just after 8:30 p.m.
Read more about crime in Berkeley.
According to BPD, the driver tried to escape but police were ultimately able to arrest him and his passenger.
"Team 7 officers jumped into action, employed vehicle containment techniques, and took two suspects safely into custody," the police association wrote on Instagram.
The suspects were identified as teenage boys, ages 15 and 17, police said. Their names were not released because they are minors.
Both teens were arrested on suspicion of vehicle theft and possession of the stolen car. They were taken to Alameda County Juvenile Hall in San Leandro.
Police said "the same two suspects were responsible for a series of recent vehicle thefts" in Berkeley, according to the Instagram post.
BPD also confirmed that one of the teenagers had just been arrested a week before the StarChase arrest on suspicion of a vehicle theft in Berkeley.
In the police union's Instagram post, the association noted that BPD does not have StarChase technology, writing, "Dear Santa, 'Starchase' technology sure sounds nice… Maybe you'll surprise us and we'll find this effective (and uncontroversial) tool on a Berkeley Police cruiser some day??"
Interestingly, former Berkeley Councilman Kriss Worthington attempted to urge city and university officials to investigate StarChase technology nearly six years ago, in 2018, citing "a spike in crime activity" amid the UC Berkeley campus community that was his district.
"The tech company StarChase offers a service where a GPS tag can be launched from a police car and adhered to a suspect vehicle in order to more effectively track suspects and limit accidents/fatalities associated with car chases," he wrote.
"This service would improve safety in the City of Berkeley and increase efficiency in bringing offenders to justice, which is especially important in light of the many crimes which have been occurring in the campus area in recent months," the item continued.
Worthington's proposal generated only minimal public interest in 2018 and did not move forward because he was unable to get a second councilperson to support it.
As a result, there was no vote on the 2018 StarChase item by the entire City Council.
There have been more than 1,200 vehicles stolen in Berkeley in 2023, a 64% increase over last year at this time, according to BPD data.
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