Flurry of police chases despite shelter-in-place

"Approaching 880 on Hegenberger, 70 mph, light traffic, no peds," a California Highway Patrol officer on board a helicopter radioed in to dispatch.

It's a scene that's been repeated over and over despite the coronavirus shelter in place: high speed pursuits of suspects refusing to stop. Police say eluding the cops is an elective - and not an essential activity - during the coronavirus crisis.

The chases haven't been limited to the freeway.

Several suspects have been busted after chases on city streets in the East Bay.

"The expectation is that the violator will yield to the emergency vehicle," said CHP Officer John Fransen, a spokesman for the agency's Golden Gate Division, which encompasses the Bay Area.

Most drivers do top -  even if they've been clocked going as fast as 150 mph.

But those who don't think they own the road, authorities say. And with fewer cars on the road these days, fleeing felons may be going faster.

"It has the potential to reach higher speeds because there's less obstacles - but the problem is, there's still obstacles," Fransen said.

Obstacles - like other cars. On Saturday, a man in a stolen Ford Fusion went the wrong way on Highway 101 in Sonoma County. He was arrested after Marin County sheriff's deputies used "spike strips" to flatten his tires.  

On Sunday, a CHP helicopter was overhead when officers chased a suspect from Vallejo. An officer on the ground laid out a spike strip on I-80 in Emeryville. 

"We have another spike at Powell, it's going to be the slow lane," the officer radioed.

The suspect stopped the car in North Oakland and ran off.

"MLK and Aileen," a CHP officer reported from the helicopter. "I have the driver... Foot bail, now heading southbound MLK.

That suspect was quickly caught.

A few days before that, another suspect led CHP officers on a chase that streaked from San Francisco to the Oakland International Airport to Orinda.

Officers again used a spike strip. 

"H-30, he's lost a wheel, tenth of a mile past Wilder, towards the shoulder, 55 mph," the officer reported from the helicopter.

One by one, the wheels fell off.

"H-30 lost another wheel at Fish Ranch."

And just before the Caldecott Tunnel, the takedown.

"H-30 we have sufficient units ,slow everybody else Code 2," the officer said, referring to patrol cars getting there fast but without lights and sirens.

"The reality is, most of these people aren't going to be able to not only outrun the radio and our aircraft units," Fransen said "We're going to get ground units in position."