HARRISBURG – The number of police pursuits in Pennsylvania dropped 12.9 percent last year, announced State Police Commissioner Frank E. Pawlowski. He said the number of pursuits resulting in deaths and injuries also declined from 2008.
Pawlowski said law enforcement agencies across the state reported involvement in 1,582 vehicle pursuits in 2009, compared to 1,816 pursuits in 2008.
The number of deaths resulting from police pursuits fell from nine in 2008 to eight last year, he said, noting that all eight of those killed were fleeing from police. No police officers or uninvolved persons were killed as the result of police pursuits.
Pawlowski said 532 of the pursuits in 2009 resulted in crashes, with 185 of those crashes involving injuries. In 2008, 606 of the pursuits resulted in crashes and 212 of them involved injuries.
The statistics are contained in the 2009 Pennsylvania Police Pursuit Report, which was compiled by state police and can be accessed through the Police Pursuit Reporting System at http://ucr.psp.state.pa.us
Other information contained in the report shows that:
• Slightly more than half of all the pursuits (839) were initiated because of traffic violations, including speeding. The other most common reasons for police to initiate pursuits were driving under the influence or suspected DUI (246); felony criminal offenses (217); and stolen or suspected stolen vehicles (134).
• 1,034 pursuits resulted in the ultimate apprehension of the fleeing motorist.
• 57.4 percent of the apprehensions were accomplished using a trailing pursuit, in which officers simply follow the violator’s vehicle in attempt to bring it to a stop. Trailing pursuits are the least aggressive type of pursuit.
“Under state law, every police department in Pennsylvania must have a written emergency vehicle-response policy governing procedures under which an officer should initiate, continue or terminate a pursuit,” Pawlowski said. “By law, these policies are confidential.”
The Vehicle Code defines a pursuit as an “attempt by a police officer operating a motor vehicle to apprehend one or more occupants of a vehicle when the driver of the vehicle is resisting the apprehension by maintaining or increasing his speed or by ignoring the police officer’s audible or visual signal to stop.”
Since 1996, the Vehicle Code has required state police to compile and publish pursuit reports.
Police agencies in Pennsylvania report pursuit data directly to state police through the Internet-based Pennsylvania Police Pursuit Reporting System, which is maintained by the state police Bureau of Research and Development.
The report is designed to provide statistical information to police agencies to help them evaluate their pursuit policies and to help identify training successes and deficiencies.
“The report does not attempt to explain increases or decreases in any of the categories and does not organize the statistics by department, municipality or county,” Pawlowski said.