End the chase

Recent high-speed pursuits could have been handled in a safer way

Four high-speed chases in as many weeks. Apparently that’s not unusual around these parts, according to Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea. It seems like four too many from our standpoint.

Let’s look at the facts of two of those chases, the two that took place, at least in part, through the streets of Chico. The first started on East 16th and Elm streets, made its way to Walnut and ended on Dayton Road. The second started on the Midway and ended at Bidwell Park after the driver went the wrong way on Pine Street. A baby in the backseat luckily was unharmed. Both incidents started with minor infractions: a light out and an expired registration.

For a news story in last week’s issue (see “In pursuit,” by Meredith J. Cooper), the CN&R spoke with Mark Priano, a board member of PursuitSAFETY, a national Chico-based nonprofit that advocates for innocent victims of car chases. His personal story is chilling. One afternoon in 2002, a 15-year-old girl took her parents’ car without permission. The cops tracked her down, put on their lights, and the teenager sped off, ignoring traffic rules. She eventually collided with Priano’s van, killing his teen daughter, Kristie.

Through PursuitSAFETY, Priano and his wife, Candy, have worked tirelessly to prevent other families from the devastation of losing an innocent loved one to an unnecessary car chase. The nonprofit advocates for alternative tactics for apprehending nonviolent suspects, such as logging license plate information and attempting an arrest at a later time. That would have been a prudent choice in these recent chases, as they all reached speeds that could have killed or critically injured an unsuspecting bystander. Plus, the fact that four out of four drivers evaded officers after crashing or stopping their vehicles proves that chasing them did not work. At least two of the suspected drivers were arrested later, however.

We urge all law enforcement to think a bit more critically when it comes to weighing the benefits of catching a suspect with the potential hazards inherent in that pursuit. Just think about Kristie Priano.