It's common for entrepreneurs and inventors to speak of the "aha! moment." It's when they realized a product or service could be created or modified to make life easier. It's called "building a better mousetrap." Len Bettendorf had that aha! moment about 10 years ago. But being an 18-year veteran police officer, he turned his attention to spike strips, not mousetraps.
Bettendorf, general manager of End-X Systems, says he decided to try to develop a better way to end police pursuits after working with a number of spike strips systems that were already on the market.
He teamed with an engineering company and started working on turning the idea into a product. His first idea didn't find a market. But he learned from the experience, gaining the market knowledge to create End-X's flagship product: the Phantom Spikes PT-700.
Bettendorf says the PT-700 spike strip offers a number of advantages over older designs.
* It's easier and safer to deploy, he says. "We made each section a little shorter, 31 inches vs. the industry standard of 36 inches." Bettendorf says that by shortening the sections, the PT-700 design is easier to throw into the road and get a "good placement." It also can be used more effectively by officers of different sizes and strength levels.
* A line and reel system aids officers in straightening the spike strip after it's been thrown and in retrieving it after use. "There's a steel cable that runs through the middle. The design is very streamlined. Pull the line and it straightens out very quickly and comes together," Bettendorf says. "The reel has a 2-to-1 ratio, and it reels in the strip really fast."
* The spikes are closer together in the PT-700 than competitive strips, according to Bettendorf. "There is a spike every 2.25 inches in the PT-700," he says. "That gives you the potential of having up to five spikes going into a tire." That spike density also gives the user a better chance of successfully taking out the pursued vehicle's tires and successfully ending the chase, he adds.
Bettendorf says more improvements to the Phantom Spikes PT-700 are coming. "We started developing this in 2010, but we are always making improvements. It's a continuous process. I couldn't even say how many different modifications we have made to the system. Our goal is to always be on the cutting edge and have the best product available."
The driving factor in the modifications to the PT-700 system has been to improve officer safety, Bettendorf says. For example, the ease of deployment and quick retrieval features were built into the product to help officers get out of the danger area—where they could be hit by the pursued vehicle—as quickly as possible.
To further improve officer safety, End-X offers training for the Phantom Spikes PT-700. Each system sold comes with a Powerpoint presentation on how to safely use it, highlighting key tactics he's learned throughout the years. Bettendorf says the training is based on his and other officers' experience using spike strips. "I know the tactics are sound because I've been out there doing it," he says.
The End-X Phantom Spikes PT-700 system comes with a storage bag and a replacement section of spikes that can be used to replace a section that's been run over. It sells for $350.