Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Sunday, October 1, 2017 11:49 am

Journalists, here’s a story idea at no charge


Last night, five people were killed here in Greensboro when a stolen car being pursued at high speed by a sheriff’s deputy ran a red light and crashed into another car crossing the intersection of Battleground Avenue and New Garden Road.

Around midnight, a Guilford County sheriff’s deputy spotted a suspicious vehicle that turned out to be stolen from Greensboro, according to a news release from the Guilford County Sheriff’s Office.

The deputy turned on his blue lights and the suspect vehicle sped south on Battleground Avenue. The deputy was about ¼-mile behind when the vehicle ran a red light at the intersection of New Garden Road and Battleground.

The stole car struck a car crossing Battleground that had the right of way.

Five people in the two vehicles were killed  two females in the vehicle crossing Battleground and two males and one female in the suspect’s vehicle.

As far as I know, the deputy was following departmental procedure, although I’ve been out of the game now for most of a decade and don’t know what policy changes might have taken place since I left the News & Record.

At the same time, anyone with a lick of compassion has to ask: Granted, this case is kind of a black swan as law enforcement goes, but was this chase really worth five human lives, at least two of whom, and possibly up to four of whom, were wholly innocent?

This brings up an idea I had in my reporting days that I never got to execute: What if news outlets did comprehensive cost-benefit- analyses of high-speed chases by law enforcement in their area and used those findings to advocate for changes, if any be needed, to local law-enforcement policy on high-speed changes?

As I see it, such an analysis would look something like this: Journalists partner with experts in cost-benefit analysis to total up the cost of such chases, assigning a dollar value to everything from damaged vehicles, fences, mailboxes, etc., to human lives. And also assign a dollar value to the benefits of such chases: the dollar value to society of getting a murderer — or, in this case, a suspected car thief — off the street. And then calculate how those costs and benefits add up.

Is catching an auto-theft suspect worth one life, let alone five? If so, current policy stands. If not, then ideally, policy would be amended accordingly.

News outlets are uniquely situated to carry out this research, but I invite any journalist, pro or citizen, to take this idea and run with it. If we’re paying too high a price to apprehend fleeing suspects, we need to know that. And if we’re not, we need to know and accept that, too.

 

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10 Comments »

  1. One of the fallout rules of policing in my city (after two people died after a high speed chase) was that the police can no longer do high speed pursuit. I’m told (by the police themselves) that they’ve been forbidden to do it. I didn’t know it was even something still happening elsewhere as this isn’t the first time I’ve heard of such things happening.

    Comment by lkeke35 — Sunday, October 1, 2017 12:03 pm @ 12:03 pm | Reply

  2. […] SOURCE […]

    Pingback by Journalists, here’s a story idea at no charge – Greensboro 101 — Sunday, October 1, 2017 12:10 pm @ 12:10 pm | Reply

  3. You’re assuming there was a chase. As you quoted from the N&R:

    “The deputy turned on his blue lights and the suspect vehicle sped south on Battleground Avenue. The deputy was about ¼-mile behind when the vehicle ran a red light at the intersection of New Garden Road and Battleground.”

    There’s nothing in the article to indicate that an actual high speed pursuit was taking place. And then there is this:

    “The deputy, who authorities haven’t identified, ran the license plate number through the National Crime Information Center database, which revealed it had been stolen from an apartment complex on East Meadowview Road on Sept. 13, according to Greensboro police.

    When the deputy turned on his blue lights and siren, the driver sped through the New Garden Road intersection, hitting the Optima.”

    Now if the deputy ran the license plate it would stand to reason that the deputy was in very close proximity to the rear of the suspect vehicle but if the suspect vehicle was 1/4 of a mile ahead of the deputy when the collision occurred then it appears the Deputy in his high powered Dodge patrol car, was not trying very hard to keep up.

    Like you, I’m against these high speed chases but until we know more your commentary is prejudiced and premature.

    Comment by Billy Jones — Wednesday, October 4, 2017 10:36 am @ 10:36 am | Reply

    • Radio traffic confirms (see today’s story) that there was a brief chase, Billy — maybe 90 seconds. The fact that even before this confirmation, the sheriff’s department was refusing to comment on its chase policy, rather than denying a chase happened, is additional, albeit circumstantial, evidence. Finally, even if there hadn’t been a chase, my larger point about costs and benefits stands on the basis of many other tragic events besides this one.

      Comment by Lex — Wednesday, October 4, 2017 11:16 am @ 11:16 am | Reply

  4. Lex wrote: “Radio traffic confirms (see today’s story) that there was a brief chase, Billy — maybe 90 seconds. The fact that even before this confirmation, the sheriff’s department was refusing to comment on its chase policy, rather than denying a chase happened, is additional, albeit circumstantial, evidence. Finally, even if there hadn’t been a chase, my larger point about costs and benefits stands on the basis of many other tragic events besides this one.”

    Doesn’t change the fact that Lex Alexander wrote this piece BEFORE he knew the facts and therefore was prejudiced and premature in his commentary.

    Now let’s deal with the facts: These high speed chases are problematic. There needs to be another way. Many communities employ helicopters to eliminate high speed chases. None of our local law enforcement agencies have such assets.

    Now there’s your story.

    Comment by Billy Jones — Wednesday, October 4, 2017 2:46 pm @ 2:46 pm | Reply

    • They said “pursuit,” Billy. They also said the deputy was a quarter-mile from New Garden (coming from Owl’s Roost) when the wreck happened, with his blue lights and siren on, so clearly he was pursuing, and at better than the local speed limit of 45. I inferred — correctly, as it appears — that there was a chase based on those reported facts.

      Comment by Lex — Wednesday, October 4, 2017 2:54 pm @ 2:54 pm | Reply

  5. Where’s the mention of “pursuit” in this article, Lex http://www.greensboro.com/news/local_news/killed-on-battleground-avenue-as-deputy-chases-stolen-vehicle/article_14a82f02-f562-5938-923e-1951251b3e68.html The article you based your blog post on. You can’t go back after the fact and change the facts. When you first posted you were being prejudiced and premature in your commentary.

    The fact that it later turned out to be true does not change that.

    Comment by Billy Jones — Wednesday, October 4, 2017 8:02 pm @ 8:02 pm | Reply

    • Uh, Billy, this is not the article I based my original post on. This is an article about a church vigil after the wreck. EDIT: The article below that top was not the article that appeared on the N&R website Sunday morning. Nonetheless it does indicate that the deputy turned on his/her blue lights and siren, which is an indication of pursuit.

      As I said above, I inferred based on the reported facts that there was a chase. My inference was later proved correct. IN YOUR OPINION what I wrote was “prejudiced and premature.” But only in your opinion.

      Also, you gonna correct that factual error on your blog? I do not now teach journalism for money, nor have I ever done so.

      Comment by Lex — Wednesday, October 4, 2017 8:24 pm @ 8:24 pm | Reply

      • Same article, scroll down the page. The N&R updated the article. Turning on blue lights is part of any normal traffic stop and does not indicate a pursuit. Correction made. Now make your own corrections.

        Comment by Billy Jones — Thursday, October 5, 2017 8:58 am @ 8:58 am | Reply

        • Blue lights AND SIREN are NOT part of a normal traffic stop, Billy.

          Comment by Lex — Thursday, October 5, 2017 9:31 am @ 9:31 am | Reply


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