A hot topic in mayoral debates of year’s past is car chases.
When Mayor Dick Greco took office in 1995, he legalized police car chases to lower the number of car thefts in the area. At the time, Tampa had the second-highest rate of auto theft in the nation, according to a Tampa Tribune article. While the number of car thefts decreased by almost 50 percent, many more deaths were a result of police car chases.
Just last July, 17-year-old Juan Carlos Elias was killed after crashing his car into a pile of sand at a construction site following a police chase. He was accused of stealing the car he was driving.
Instances like these further spark debate on the issue. Some will argue that Elias is at complete fault for stealing the car. Others will argue, whether he was guilty of stealing the car was not known at the time of the chase.
Why would Elias run if he had nothing to hide?, and at what point is the pursuit of a material possession not worth the potential human consequences of high-speed chases, are just two more questions posed by opposing viewpoints.
After all, the maximum punishment for larceny of a motor vehicle is five years in prison, according to the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
Aside from accused thieves, others have been killed as a result of police car chases. According to a Tampa Tribune report, in 1995 the city of Tampa paid $142,000 to settle lawsuits filed by the families of two German tourists killed when a car thief involved in a police chase slammed into their vehicle.
This time around, the only mayoral candidate who proposes to change the car chase policy is Don Ardell. He proposes police use helicopter surveillance and other methods instead to catch car thieves.
Regulations should be set for car chases, and these regulations should determine in what neighborhood chases can take place and how long the chases can last. This will prevent unnecessary injury to those involved in the chase and for others who may be nearby.
People shouldn’t die because they stole a car, and others shouldn’t die because another car is being chased. Who values their car more than another person’s life?
This time around, regulations should be constructed around reducing innocent deaths and not reducing car theft.