August 27, 1996 in Nation/World

Harpoon Cars Will Make Dwi Charges Stick Finland Hopes Speeders Get The Point

Matti Huuhtanen Associated Press Writer
 

Police in northern Finland have come up with a whale of a plan for stopping speeders: a police car equipped with a harpoon.

The car was developed by police in Oulu, 380 miles north of Helsinki. They’re seeking government approval to put it into regular use.

“We were fed up with not being able to stop runaway drunk drivers or speeders,” Oulu police Sgt. Markku Limingoja, who designed the device, said Tuesday. “This harpoon will bring them to an abrupt halt with a bang and not a whimper.”

Unlike a traditional harpoon, the road version is not fired. Instead, it is mounted on the police car’s front bumper, and pursuing officers ram it into the trunk of a fleeing car. It locks into place with hydraulically operated barbs, and the runaway vehicle comes to a halt as the police car brakes.

Of course, the police car does have to catch the fugitive before it can engage the harpoon. And some might consider the impact little different from a collision.

Limingoja admitted there would be some risk associated with using the harpoon.

“There is a danger that the runaway car could jam on the brakes,” Limingoja said. “Officers using the car will have to be well-trained so that they get a feel for it.”

If the getaway driver refuses to come out, tear gas can be released through the harpoon’s hollow shaft.

The 1-yard-long harpoon swivels so it can be aimed for a precise hit, and is equipped with infrared sights for night use. A single officer can operate the harpoon while driving.


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