Bismarck PD, Highway Patrol team up to cut down the number of fleeing drivers

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The Bismarck Police Department is working to track down and arrest drivers who refuse to pull over during a traffic stop.

“In the last seven years, we’ve seen just an exponential growth in the number of vehicles fleeing from officers in relatively minor traffic stops,” said Lt. Jeff Solemsaas.

Officials say in the first three months of this year, there were 77 cases of people fleeing — but since then, there have been three times that many cases, to a total of 254.

“There haven’t been a whole lot of crashes from people fleeing. I’d like to think that it’s just luck, perhaps because we don’t chase them,” said Solemsaas.

Recently, Bismarck PD and the North Dakota Highway Patrol joined efforts to catch the runners.

“Combining with their efforts, they have equipment that we don’t have. We have manpower to just put in one area,” said Deputy Randy Ziegler.

The equipment from the Highway Patrol includes an airplane with thermal imaging used to locate the offenders.

“Our success rate is actually good from the individuals that flee from us. I don’t have a percentage number, but we do pretty well as far as tracking these individuals,” said Ziegler.

Getting pulled over usually comes from a minor traffic offense such as not wearing your seat belt to having a faulty tail light.

Officials believe the No. 1 reason that people flee from officers is that they have illegal substances in the vehicle.

“I think we have a lot of people driving around that have drugs in their vehicles, and they see this as an opportunity to not pull over because if they do get pulled over, they’re going to get charged with whatever drug they have in their vehicle,” Ziegler said.

Bismarck PD has a limited no-chase policy due to the dangers that come with it.

“What we do is, we instruct our officers to use their discretion and our thought process on that is if pursuing that individual is going to be a greater chance for something bad to happen, obviously we don’t pursue,” Ziegler said.

The first offense when fleeing from an officer generally results in a misdemeanor, but it depends on the circumstances. Police advise that it’s best to not flee.

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