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Running from the law: Drivers fleeing from police have quadrupled in recent years

Posted at 5:46 PM, Aug 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-04 18:20:17-04

DETROIT (WXYZ) — It’s a national problem plaguing our local police departments: a growing number of drivers, deciding not to stop when an officer is attempting to pull them over.

“Just in our last quarter from April to June, we had a 61% increase in people that have fled from traffic stops,” according to Lt. Michael Shaw with the Michigan State Police who says those numbers are in Detroit alone.

Redford police told 7 Action News the number of drivers taking off have more than quadrupled in three years.

In 2019, they reported 19 pursuits. That number jumped to 68 in 2020 and 81 in 2021.

“I can guarantee you, there is more,” Detective James Thorburn with the Allen Park Police Department said.

Thorburn says those alarming numbers don’t tell the full story because officers won’t make a report for fleeing drivers if they don’t get their license plate.

“People think they don’t have to stop and can get away with it,” Thorburn said.

But why?

Around 2015, activist began disputing the effectiveness of high-speed police chases because of the number of innocent people being killed. A 2007 study shows innocent bystanders account for 27% of all deaths linked to police pursuits.

MSP changed their policy in 2017, vowing to not chase for a misdemeanor or traffic violation. But is the plan to prevent crashes working?

“How far is he going to go before he realizes I'm not behind him,” Thornburn said.

Still, Shaw says he sees the value in limiting high-speed chases on the road. So now, the the aviation unit is assisting in the sky.

"The chance of you being observed by that helicopter when you flee from any police department is pretty good,” Shaw said.

Pastor Maurice L. Hardwick believes it needs to go a step further.

“We have to get smart, innovative, use all technology. We need freeway cameras,” Hardwick said.

According to Shaw, MSP is utilizing cameras as well, and it's possible a getaway driver could get a knock at their door.

Law enforcement officials say many people taking off are fleeing for minor offenses like no proof of insurance or no license, so what would have just been a ticket is now a felony with the person facing jail time.