New device halts stolen cars at the touch of a button: Scanner gives police control of vehicle's speed

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The Independent Online
A HIGH-SPEED police car chase ended on the A1 in Northumberland yesterday with police officers merely pressing a blue button in their car to bring the vehicle they were chasing to an unexpected halt.

If the device they were using, Demonscan, is eventually put on the market, then such chases and so called 'joy riding' will be a thing of the past. No longer will cars be followed at dangerous speeds in built-up areas and the thieves will not be able to shake off police.

The equipment Northumbria police were testing gradually reduces the power available to any car fitted with a special electronic device which tells them that the vehicle has been stolen.

In yesterday's test, Constable Robbie Burn drove to within a few hundred feet of the car then activated the scanning equipment. This turns on the stolen vehicle's flashing indicators, reducing its speed from well over 100mph down to an almost standstill. The police remain in complete control of the stolen vehicle's speed and are able to halt it in safety.

There are a few electronic devices being tested around the country but the Demonscan is one of the most advanced and is almost certainly to be given the backing of PACT (Partnership Against Car Theft), a national non-profit making trust dedicated to reducing car crime that is supported by the Home Office.

To steal a car fitted with Demonscan, a thief would first have to bypass its immobiliser system. Once this happens, the device automatically sends out a signal alerting police.

The device, which is also being tested at laboratories of the police scientific development branch, is then able to tell police whether the vehicle is stationary or moving. The police would not know, without having a special tracking device fitted, precisely where the vehicle was. But once it had been located they could control its speed.

Malcolm Kyle, who has been testing the device for the Northumbria force, said yesterday that the equipment was unique in that it could act as an immobiliser then 'report' itself as having been stolen. The driver's key-fob would be alarmed and he or she would then know the car was being taken.

The manufacturers of the device, Knightwatch, based in Kent, have yet to fix a retail price. But PC Burn, who is regularly involved in stolen car chases, said the new equipment would be invaluable. 'Anything which stops this craze of lads driving around at high speed, then running away as fast as they can, has to be good,' he said.