The Thrill of the Chase
January 23, 2006 8:51 AM   Subscribe

Someone drives away from the cops in Los Angeles County about fifteen times a day—much more often than anywhere else in the US. But how do you find out when a chase is being broadcast live on TV? With PursuitAlert™ service, you'll be alerted by a phone call or through a text message to your cell-phone or pager to live high speed chase broadcasts from Los Angeles TV stations. You can expect to see about 4 chases per month on live television.
posted by PenguinBukkake (22 comments total)
I guess it is more real than Survivor.
posted by caddis at 9:21 AM on January 23, 2006

I've seen this and it's one of the more bizarre forms of human debasement that I've experienced in recent years.
On the part of the watchers, that is, not the watch-ee's.

I've flown to Hell-A several times, but only starting last year. There, like clockwork, almost every other time I looked at a TV they were playing a live chase. And every "news" "station" carried this. You couldn't find anything else -- flip -- flip -- flip, all chase, all the time.

I asked locals if this was just a special week and they laughed and said it was like this all the time. The news choppers are constantly on the ready in case a chase starts.

I could go into a whole 'nother sermon about how bizarrely entertainment-based the news was and how their shows appeared more like a train wreck than anything on CNN/FOX... but I think you get the picture.

I guess since people will watch it there is a market for it.

*fingers crossed for Arizona Bay*
posted by cavalier at 9:32 AM on January 23, 2006

Heh. People do it for the fame, I think, in a city where people starve for it.

/waxes poetic.
posted by delmoi at 9:32 AM on January 23, 2006

In russia they actualy have a TV show where you've got to outrun the police on public roads. If you escape, you get to keep the car.
posted by delmoi at 9:33 AM on January 23, 2006

posted by cavalier at 9:34 AM on January 23, 2006

In Russia, car keeps you.

I am so sorry for that.
posted by JeffK at 10:09 AM on January 23, 2006

I wish that New Yorker article was online, rather than just a Q&A about it.
posted by smackfu at 10:39 AM on January 23, 2006

In Russia, car keeps you.

No apology necessary, JeffK, except that I now have to clean up the coffee I spit-taked (spit-took?) all over my monitor.
posted by Kibbutz at 10:45 AM on January 23, 2006

In my smallish city of 175,000,--in the last 5 months alone--we have had three innocent bystanders killed in three separate incidents because a driver decided to evade the police. One was a good friend of mine.

You bet meth kills.
posted by sourwookie at 11:35 AM on January 23, 2006

I've driven away from minor traffic stops a couple of times - its easier than you may think.
posted by The Jesse Helms at 11:38 AM on January 23, 2006

I'm so glad I don't live in Los Angeles anymore. I was born and raised near it, and spent most of my youth in L.A. Sure, watching the high-speed pursuits on television was fun, but actually being there was pretty terrifying.

I can remember being stopped on a freeway offramp, several cars back from the light, and watching a suspect in a souped-up Mustang came flying down the offramp shoulder. He must have been doing at least 70 M.P.H., and was leaving a trail of sparks as his car alternately slid against the concrete barricade and the sides of the stopped cars. He missed my car by inches, shot past, and then was followed mere seconds later by a line of five or six L.A.P.D. cruisers, lights blazing and sirens howling. The whole cavalcade blew through the red light, much to the annoyance of the people in the cars that were trying to cross the intersection, and resulting in at least one fender-bender from people rear-ending each other at the green light.

Another time, I was driving along in the "slow" lane (meaning, I was doing the snail-like pace of 75 M.P.H. in the far-right lane) when a car dove across from the fast lane, cut me off -- missing the front of my car by inches -- and hurled itself down the offramp. The pursuing police car almost side-swiped me in his haste to slam on the brakes, slow, dive behind me, and then floor it as he shot down the offramp in pursuit of the suspect. I slowed enough that when the suspect did what I was afraid he might do -- that is, come screaming back up on the onramp -- he and his pursuing line of police cars entered the freeway ahead of me and rapidly disappeared into the distance.

One lesson I learned early on was this: the only safe place to be when there is a pursuit going on is behind it. Now I live in San Francisco, and am happy to say that I have yet to see a single high-speed pursuit. I can do without the excitement, thank you very much.
posted by nlindstrom at 11:44 AM on January 23, 2006

The New Yorker article is very good (paper copy only it appears). It mentions that this PursuitAlert service has only worked in LA, due to the unusual cultural conditions there.
posted by stbalbach at 11:49 AM on January 23, 2006

I'm gonna have to get me a New Yorker now. Thanks for the tip-off.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 12:05 PM on January 23, 2006

Not too long ago I was living in westside LA, just south of Koreatown, just east of upper Crenshaw and Adams Heights, just west of Downtown. Arlington or Arlington Heights, if you will.

The old converted hotel masquerading as an apartment building I was living in was 5 stories, which made it tall enough to see most of the surrounding area from Santa Monica to Hollywood, on over to Downtown and south to South Central.

I'd often go up there for a beer or two and a few chapters of whatever book I was reading. It was usually much quieter up there. Usually.

One night a car chase gets going, and I can watch it live from my roof because the driver kept orbiting all over this westside area. I could tell where he was and what streets he was on by the sirens and all the frenetic multicolored lights following him up and down the dim canyon-like streets.

A few minutes later a police helicopter is following him at low altitude. And then just a few moments after that about 4 or 5 news helicopters were following the police helicopter, stacked up atop one another like a string of illuminated kites.

The whole spectacle gave all the illusion of some manic, giant robot kid covered in blinky lights while towing a stack of giant, blinky light kites on a mad spree to and fro all over the city.

Another thing I noticed is that the news helicopters had to be faster then the police helicopter to stay on top of the scene, due to the altitude they were at and the speed of the police helicopter. The police helicopter would change directions and then the whole stack of helicopters would react and follow suit - just like they were all tied together by a big stretchy string.

It has been one of the single most insane, ridiculous, incomprehensible and outright goofy events I've ever personally witnessed. The Keystone Kops writ large and jet-age. It would take clown suits and jet packs to make it funnier.
posted by loquacious at 12:12 PM on January 23, 2006

All I remember of the cops in Los Angeles was that they would ticket and lecture me for jaywalking (I never paid), and that, when I was out walking at night, the police helicopters would often point their spotlight at me, which made me want to burst into song or do a little softshoe number.

Ah, 1992. Times were simpler then.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:21 PM on January 23, 2006

That area's not really west LA, loquacious, which usually refers to the area around UCLA, including Palms and Mar Vista. The area you described was my old stomping grounds in high school, and is called Mid-City. Part of it is also northwest corner of what people call South Central LA.
posted by linux at 2:44 PM on January 23, 2006

But remember, the one with the tank was in San Diego. ;)
posted by linux at 2:46 PM on January 23, 2006

Wow, this is the rebrand of why I joined.

I've come full circle, glad to be back. Can't tell whether I liked the good old days better.
posted by rider at 4:50 PM on January 23, 2006

Holy cow, is that the oldest interval ever to a double-post?
posted by zek at 5:07 PM on January 23, 2006

Sounds like someone is watching too much Mad Max.
posted by Smedleyman at 5:19 PM on January 23, 2006

That area's not really west LA, loquacious

I said Westside, not West LA. Apparently Westside has been rebranded - I've heard it used recently to describe pretty much anything from Adams and Western all the way out to Santa Monica and Venice, including Koreatown, Miracle Mile/Wilshire, parts of Hollywood, Rodeo, Beverly Heights, Beverly Hills and others.

I think whether or not you officially get to say "Oh, I live in Westside" is whether or not you pay more than $2,500 a month in rent. I certainly wouldn't, so fuck 'em. :)
posted by loquacious at 8:30 PM on January 23, 2006

Didn't LAPD recently decide to stop chasing, at least with ground cars? I seem to recall that happening after yet another widely publicized chase that did harm to bystanders.

<derail desc="what is the west side">
From a purely descriptivist standpoint, the west side seems to be from west LA to the beach. and west LA starts around la brea.

calling k town the west side seems really odd to me. just because it's west of east LA doesn't mean it's west... that's pretty central.

plus, it's already k town....

we pay significantly less than $2500 for a nice 2+1.5 with private garage in a nice neighborhood in what is definitely the west side
posted by flaterik at 10:17 PM on January 23, 2006

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