While I accept James Smith’s assertion (letter, Jan. 4) that high-speed police chases can be hazardous, I respectfully submit that not using this law enforcement tool can be more hazardous.

While it is true that license plates can be run and the legal owner of the vehicle identified, Mr. Smith assumes that the owner of the vehicle is the person involved in the crime, when there may well be someone else behind the wheel. He also ignores the potential criminal involvement of any passengers in the vehicle, whose identification and prosecution become much more difficult, if not impossible, if the vehicle is only tracked down later. Mr. Smith further assumes the plates are visible, while in practice they may be missing or obscured.

While I would not consider a high-speed chase appropriate for a non-hazardous traffic violation (missing taillight, etc.) when the plates are visible and can be run, it is perfectly appropriate when another crime is reasonably suspected or if the violation is in itself hazardous — OVI, excessive speed, running red lights, etc.

The danger of not using this tool under any circumstance is simple and apparent: If it is never used, then criminals will be able to rest easy knowing that all they must do to avoid capture, conviction and consequences is to flee the scene in a stolen or borrowed vehicle.

Regarding loss of life in the course of fleeing from the police, I can only have sympathy for an innocent bystander — that is, a struck pedestrian or other third party, or a child in the fleeing vehicle.

Any fleeing driver and any adult passengers (who did not stop the driver) who perished made their choice and received their just consequence.

Grant Johnson