By Adrienne Moore

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Law enforcement officers now have extra backup from their patrol cars.

Technology from an Auburn-based company is stopping patrol car theft before it happens, creating a new generation of police cars.

CBS13 started looking into this technology after a series of California Highway Patrol vehicle thefts by suspects who escaped custody.

RELATED: How Did 5 Suspects Escape California Highway Patrol Custody?

A surveillance mode system is the first of its kind technology that’s now being used by Fiat-Chrysler and Ford. With a potential ambush lurking behind a patrol car, the doors lock and the windows roll up in a matter of seconds.

Roseville native and Intermotive owner Greg Schafer says it provides a solution to a dangerous and potentially deadly problem facing more police officers.

“The need is growing,” he said. “It’s tough out there for officers. There’s so much they’re required to do simultaneously.”

In December, CBS13 reported on a series of incidents with the CHP where suspects escaped custody and, in cases, took off with the officer’s patrol car.

The Auburn-based company has three devices it calls game-changers for the men and women in the field.

“The Auburn Police Department uses what we call our Police Interface Module,” he said. “It’s kind of a Swiss army knife of features that we can bake into one product.”

The entire fleet of SUVs from the Auburn Police Department are all equipped with Ecolock, which kills the engine while in park. The battery power stays on, allowing the lights, radios and other equipment to operate without wasting fuel.

“We’re seeing in excess of 40 percent reduction in idle time,” he said.

Since emergency vehicles spend the majority of their life idling, Schafer says Ecolock has two goals: being kind to the environment and increasing fuel efficiency. That also helps the agency’s bottom line.

But for departments that prefer to keep the engine running, there’s the technology that’s activated from the officer’s steering wheel.

“All they have to do is hit the steering wheel button and then remove the key,” he said. “The system is now active, so after five seconds, the gun release is now locked as well as the rear-access to the vehicle.”

Officers can leave the car and keep the air or heat running, but if anyone without an authorized key tried to tap the brake or shift out of park, Idlelock automatically kills the engine.

“Our main focus is making sure that officers go home at the end of their shift, that they go home safe in the public they’re serving,” he said.

Idlelock was installed in the San Diego Police Department’s fleet of cars after a series of thefts, and no cars have been stolen since.

The CHP says it has a new contract with Chrysler-Dodge to have the ambush-detection system as part of the standard equipment in the agency’s 2017 Dodge Chargers. Only a small handful are out on the road now.

Adrienne Moore


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