Hopes new police pursuit app could save lives

Every year New Zealanders die in police pursuits - 74 Kiwis in the past decade alone.

That toll includes some innocent bystanders, hit by vehicles involved in the chase.

But now a new smartphone device may help save lives. It's an app that notifies you when a police chase is underway nearby.

Called a digital siren, it could be the difference between life and death.

"Everybody within a two-mile radius that has our free app is notified of a high-speed chase in progress," says former cop Tim Morgan.

Morgan spent 37 years as a US cop and developed the app called 'Pursuit Alert'.

"This comes from an experience I had when I was in law enforcement in the US with an innocent young man that was in the wrong place, wrong time. He was killed by a fleeing vehicle on a high-speed chase," he says.

Between 2009 and September 2019, 432 people were seriously injured in New Zealand police pursuits.

During the same period, 74 people were killed - that's four more than the total number of Kiwis killed in the Vietnam and Korean Wars.

The app is free to download and connects with a device installed in a patrol car which is switched on by an officer in pursuit.

Former Kiwi cop Lance Burdett used to supervise pursuits. He would like to see more testing of the app and the demands it might place on officers.

"The police vehicle driver already has enough to do and then they have got to alert another system, it has to be activated by the police officer," he says. "It's best that they focus on their driving."

New Zealand police can currently send alerts to mobile phones for emergencies like wildfires or armed offenders at large.

Police say they're investigating the use of new technologies in pursuits but the use of their emergency mobile alert system isn't part of that consideration. Nor does it seem is Morgan's app.

"There can be families that will be together for Christmases to come, because this technology prevented the tragedy from taking place," he says.

Technology he hopes can prevent New Zealand tragedies as well.