Vehicle chases are increasing across the state, according to Iowa State Patrol Trooper Paul Gardner.
Gardner gave a presentation on Iowa Department of Public Safety vehicle chase data at Webster County Crime Chess Friday at the Best Western Starlite Village Inn and Suites.
In 2019, the DPS participated in 224 vehicle chases statewide.
In 2021, this number has increased to 384.
Overall, there has been a 20% increase in vehicle chases statewide over the past five years, Gardner said.
Last year, five officers suffered minor injuries during vehicle chases, and no serious injuries were reported, Gardner said. There were 44 suspects injured, mostly in pursuit accidents or aggressiveness during their arrest.
“The reason they run, most of them – 81% of them in 2021 – was for traffic violations, so anywhere from speeding to maybe a stop sign ticket”, Gardner said.
About 10% involved drunk or reckless driving and 9% involved outstanding warrants.
Gardner said about 88% of suspects in prosecutions are apprehended and charged.
Vehicle chases are also expensive. In 2021, there was $452,000 in damage to suspect vehicles and $203,000 in other property damage from lawsuits. The DPS vehicles also sustained approximately $220,000 in damage.
In Iowa State Patrol District 7, which includes Webster County and surrounding areas, the DPS was involved in seven vehicle chases last year, about 1% of the total number of chases in the whole state.
The Davenport area has the highest percentage of activity involving DPS, Gardner said — around 30%.
Overall, the month with the most vehicle pursuit activity is April, with Sunday being the busiest day of the week. About two-thirds of vehicle chases take place between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.
“The majority of them are very short in duration, just maybe a few minutes,” Gardner said.
As the weather begins to warm, motorcycles hit the road and account for 15% of patrol pursuits, Gardner said.
Gardner also spoke about the techniques and tactics used by soldiers to stop vehicle pursuits. He also explained what situations can arise to cause prosecutors to decide to “hang up” the chase – often if the chase is moving at high speed and approaching a densely populated area, creating a greater risk of injury to bystanders if the chase continues.