The Wanted Level in Grand Theft Auto V is a measure to determine how much the player is wanted by the Los Santos Police Department, the Los Santos County Sheriff and/or the National Office of Security Enforcement. Unlike previous games in the series, Grand Theft Auto V features a five-star scale rather than six.
In contrast with police in previous installments, police officers in Grand Theft Auto V are much more aggressive and persistent when it comes to chasing after criminals or the player. The police AI is noticeably much more intelligent; police cars avoid obstacles much better and tend to use more methods of apprehending the player, such as the PIT maneuver, or attempting to corner and "box in" the player's vehicle. When chasing after the player in a vehicle, police officers tend to ram the back end of the player's car, which may send it skidding out of control. Similar to Grand Theft Auto IV, police can even respond to crimes committed out of their sight, as civilians can call the police on their cell phones to report crimes. While having a Wanted Level, players are not able to switch between the three protagonists, though they can switch to their Online character.
At a one star-wanted level, the player is considered to have committed a "minor" crime. The police will chase the player and attempt to arrest him by holding him at gunpoint. In a vehicle, the officer will open the door and hold the protagonist at gunpoint, making him surrender immediately. If on foot, the player can resist arrest by pressing the sprint button to break away from the arrest and attempt to run away, at the cost of immediately raising the wanted level to two stars. Police cars will follow the player. If the player resists arrest, either by breaking away from being busted or by simply running/driving away, the wanted level will escalate to two stars. If the player climbs a ladder, the police will climb up too. There will be a maximum of two police cars chasing the player at this wanted level, unless more cops are in the area when attaining a star. If the player enters the water the police will shoot the player. Just like in former games, officers are able to pull out the protagonist from a stationary or slowly-driving vehicle and put him under arrest.
In Grand Theft Auto Online however, the police will not attempt to arrest the protagonist; instead they will directly shoot to kill. This is explained by the lack of Busted mechanic in Grand Theft Auto Online, much like the previous multiplayer mode in Grand Theft Auto IV.
A one star wanted level can be acquired by committing the following deeds:
- Causing damage at the local stands, shops, knocking over pedestrians without killing them and causing a non-lethal chaos on streets.
- Shooting, killing, injuring, running over, or otherwise attacking pedestrians.
- Bumping into a police car.
- Stealing a vehicle, either by carjacking the occupants inside or breaking into a parked one.
- Killing the driver of a vehicle the player is stealing.
- Driving by an officer with the car's alarm sounding.
- Attacking a vehicle. (Explosions may result in two or three star wanted level)
- Harassing police, either by honking at them, flipping them off (especially when trying to perform a Drive-By Shooting without a gun), walking into them, standing on top of an occupied police vehicle, doing burnouts near them, talking to them repeatedly using the interaction button (which causes the character to start insulting them), or even standing next to them for too long.
- Harassing, injuring or killing a security guard (or even his dog).
- Acquired if a pedestrian calls the police on the player for harassing.
- Taking a picture of a police officer/sheriff deputy with the in-game phone's Snapmatic feature.
- Blocking the police car's path for too long.
- Spotted in a stolen vehicle. (GTA Online)
- Harassing pedestrians while in sight of police.
- Crashing an aircraft, typically by parachuting out of it while in mid-air.
- Shooting a gun while scaring pedestrians. (unusually gives a Wanted Level)
- Being spotted by police while driving a vehicle that has caught fire.
- Attacking a paramedic.
- Attacking a firefighter.
- Not paying the Downtown Cab driver.
- Attacking another player while in sight of the police. (GTA Online)
- If another player calls the police on you. (GTA Online)
- Being caught drunk driving.
- Being caught shoplifting items at convenience stores.
- Rarely, if the LSPD or Highway Patrol see you speeding in a vehicle, this is seen in some missions/stranger and freaks.
- Being Caught stealing money from the cashier in 24/7
At a two star-wanted level, the police become more aggressive. They now shoot to kill and during pursuits, officers actively chase the player and drive much more aggressively, now attempting to ram the player off the road. In a pursuit, police cars may also be waiting ahead of the pursuit at the side of the road and police vehicles might also be driving ahead of the player, turning its lights and sirens on when the player gets close to surprise him/her and cut them off. Police will not attempt a vehicular arrest, unless a pursuit has lasted for approximately one minute without hurting any cop and the player stops their vehicle (singleplayer only). At this wanted level, a maximum of 3 police cars will be chasing the player.
A two star wanted level can be acquired by committing the following crimes:
- Attacking a law enforcement officer with fists, or melee weapons.
- Resisting arrest, either by breaking away from the arrest itself, or attempting to run/drive away.
- Refusing to pull over while driving a vehicle, after police orders you to do it.
- Running over a Police officer (sometimes 3 stars).
- Killing a paramedic with a firearm.
- Killing a firefighter with a firearm.
- Landing on a cable car with a parachute.
- Shooting a gun in sight of police.
- Pointing a gun at someone in sight of police.
- Stealing a police vehicle near any police station or anywhere else in the game while in sight of police.
- Attacking, or bumping into a vehicle occupied by a law enforcement officer.
- Killing pedestrians while already at a one star wanted level.
- Sometimes when switching to Trevor, the player will find themselves in a police pursuit with a two-star wanted level, either on Route 68 or on the Palomino Freeway.
- Acquired after refusing to leave the Los Santos Golf Club after the warning has been given.
- Flying over the airspace of Bolingbroke Penitentiary, Fort Zancudo or Los Santos International Airport after the warning is given to leave.
- Killing, injuring or attacking a civilian inside the Mission Row Police Station.
- Holding up a store. (Whilst the act of robbing a store gives only a one star wanted level, this will increase to two as soon as the player leaves the store. However, due to the lack of the Busted-mechanic in GTA Online, this will simply result in a two star-wanted level in the store.)
- Stealing any vehicle that was requested by Simeon. (GTA Online)
- Trespassing in a police impound lot to retrieve the player's Personal Vehicle. (GTA Online)
- Crashing a vehicle the player is driving at high speed while in sight of police.
- Being caught attacking a paramedic or firefighter in sight.
- Trespassing, or driving into, Richards Majestic Productions studio, if playing as Franklin or Trevor.
- Being on top of the cable cars at Mount Chiliad
At three stars the police will use a lot more tactics to stop the player. They will set up roadblocks with their police cars and police transporters, which will set out a spike strip on the road behind them. All police officers will be wearing a bullet proof vest. Police officers will run up to the player if they are stationary in a vehicle, drag them out and waste them with their current weapon. A Police Maverick helicopter is called in to follow the player around, shining its spotlight on them at night and letting its gunners fire at the player. Police will not attempt a vehicular arrest, unless a pursuit has lasted for approximately one minute without hurting any cop and the player stops his/her vehicle, however they will shoot mindlessly and will probably kill the player instead. A maximum of four police cars and a police helicopter will be sent after the player at any given time, but when passing a roadblock, officers could get in their vehicles in order to give chase to the player. The Police helicopter can only be used once for a brief time, before it turns around for refuel, another helicopter could be sent out later, though.
A three star-wanted level can be acquired by committing the following crimes:
- Killing, injuring or running over a law enforcement officer or a soldier.
- Trespassing in the Los Santos International Airport only as Trevor.
- Shooting the cashier during or after robbing a store. (GTA Online)
- Shooting down any aircraft in flight (including NPC-controlled Froggers, Jets, Shamals and Buzzards).
- Trespassing the staircase or the rooftop of the LSPD Police station in Mission Row.
- Colliding into an aircraft and destroying it.
- Blowing open the back doors on the Securicar truck. (GTA Online)
- Robbing several stores within a certain amount of time without changing glasses or masks. (GTA Online)
- Failure to return the vehicle within 12 hours, or destroying a requested vehicle from Lester. (GTA Online)
- Completing the fourth Rampage.
- Killing a lot more civilians while already in two stars.
- Destroying the Blimp.
- Standing behind or using the police computer in the police counter on Mission Row.
At a four star wanted level, NOOSE teams will be sent to eliminate the player. They will arrive in FIB Grangers or Sheriff SUVs, depending on whether they are in Los Santos or Blaine County. There will be one NOOSE unit driving the SUV, with two other NOOSE units hanging on the sides, firing their handguns on the player. NOOSE will also try to gun the player down out of Police Mavericks. When they can't get a shot, they will rappel out of the police helicopter with ropes and engage the player on the ground. Armored NOOSE riot vans will also be deployed to set up roadblocks. There will be multiple helicopters chasing the player at a time, most of the time 2, though the number can go up to 3 when the player attacks them. Police will not attempt a vehicular arrest, unless a pursuit has lasted for approximately one minute without hurting any cop and the player stops his/her vehicle. At this wanted level, a maximum of five police ground vehicles and three police helicopters will be sent after the player at any given time, though officers in roadblocks will get in their cars and chase the player after he has passed them or changed his route.
A four star-wanted level can be acquired by committing the following crimes:
- Continuing to retaliate against law enforcement.
- Destroying a Police Maverick while a wanted level is in full force. Can sometimes take at least 2 tries to attain the 4th star.
- Trespassing in restricted areas (such as the Zancudo Army Base or the Humane Labs and Research facility).
- Robbing four stores and killing the owner in a row.
A continued pursuit with four stars will eventually give the player a five-star wanted level. This is the highest wanted level in the game. The streets will now be filled with police personnel and streets in the city will eventually feature next to or no traffic what so ever, with numerous police cars and NOOSE vehicles looking for the player and the police setting up multiple roadblocks at a time. At 5 stars, usually two, but up to three Police Mavericks will be chasing the player. Police will not attempt a vehicular arrest, unless a pursuit has lasted for approximately one minute without hurting any cop and the player stops his/her vehicle. Also noticeable is the significantly higher amount of NOOSE units compared to four stars. Unlike police from Grand Theft Auto IV, normal police officers will not perform drive-by's during a chase. Only NOOSE from their Grangers will.
A five star wanted level can be acquired by committing the following crimes:
- Continuing to retaliate against law enforcement.
- Killing a large number of police personnel.
- Destroying a large number of cars, boats, bikes, helicopters, or other vehicles.
- Firing a missile in a Buzzard or P-996 Lazer within Los Santos International Airport (if playing as Trevor).
- Robbing all of the 24/7 stores when you survived the police (GTA Online)
In GTA V, there are several restricted areas that can only be accessed by authorised personnel and are off-limits to the protagonists. The player will quickly earn a wanted level if they trespass in the restricted areas. While inside any of these areas, the Lower Wanted Level cheat will not function, and the player will be unable to lose their heat unless they leave the area.
- Fort Zancudo - Entering the base will give the player a four-star wanted level. Flying over it will give only two stars, although they will quickly escalate to four if staying for too long.
- Bolingbroke Penitentiary - Entering the prison will give the player a four-star wanted level. Flying over it will give only two stars, although they will quickly escalate to four if staying for too long.
- Humane Labs and Research - Entering the laboratory will give the player a four-star wanted level. It is unrestricted in Grand Theft Auto Online.
- Los Santos Golf Club - Flying over the club or driving a vehicle in it (if not owning the club) will give the player a two-star wanted level.
- Los Santos Naval Port - Entering the port will give the player a four-star wanted level. In GTA Online, the area is unrestricted and the player may enter this area.
- Los Santos International Airport - Entering the airport as only Trevor will give the player a three-star wanted level, as Michael and Franklin are both allowed to enter the area unrestricted. In Grand Theft Auto Online, the area is unrestricted.
- Kortz Center - Entering the Center whilst it is closed will earn the player a one-star wanted level.
- Backlot City - Entering the studio will give the player a two-star wanted level. After completing Mr. Richards, all three characters can enter the area without restriction. In Grand Theft Auto Online, the area is unrestricted.
- Mission Row Police Station - Trespassing the staircase or the rooftop will give the player a three-stars wanted level.
If the playing is driving near Fort Zancudo (with or without a wanted level), soldiers in Crusaders will give chase to the player. Military personnel are able to arrest the protagonist in GTA V, however they will shoot the player if he resists arrest.
In the mission Franklin and Lamar, when the player gets a wanted level for the first time, the following instructions will appear:
- Your wanted level is shown by the number of stars on screen. One or more stars and the cops will be alerted.
- The Radar flashes red and blue when the cops can see you.
- When out of sight of the cops, the wanted stars will flash and cones will appear on the Radar to show the area they are searching.
- To lose a wanted level, stay out of the cones until the cops call off the search. Hide in alleys or in the dark to stay out their sight.
Escaping a Wanted Level
To escape a wanted level, the player must stay out of sight of the police pursuers (in the "cone search mode") for a period of time (the length of time depends on the severity of the wanted level).
If a police pursuer spots the player and the chase reverts to active mode, the escape timer will reset.
In Singleplayer and Online, the player can reduce their wanted level by 1 star by changing their appearance - this can be done by putting on or taking off a mask or sunglasses while the search is in "search cone" mode. This will mean they have less time to wait out the search. Failure to escape will result in the player either being arrested or (in Online especially) killed. If the player is within a block radius of their Personal Vehicle, their vehicle will be impounded.
Wanted levels have three associated awards in OnlineThe Fugitive
- "Keep the Cops on the run. Spend time with a wanted level."
- "Find a good hiding place or burn some rubber and get out of town. Nowhere is safe until the sirens stop. Evade 5 star wanted levels."
- "Cops will take to the skies to bring you to justice. Shoot their choppers down."
- Unlike previous games in the series, saving the game will not clear the wanted level, and when loading the game it will reappear, particularly a quick save.
- If the player is in a vehicle and being chased by the police, civilians will occasionally help the police by either attempting to ram the player's vehicle off the road, or by blocking the player's path.
- Similarly, if one disables a police vehicle but do not kill the police officers, the officers may commandeer a civilian car to continue the pursuit.
- The cone shapes on the radar during a wanted level are comparable to the police search mechanic first seen in the Driver series.
- If the radio in the player's vehicle is switched off, background music will begin to play once a three-star wanted level is reached, and will continue to do so until the wanted level is lost. There are 14 different pieces of music that will randomly play (2 extras have been added to the enhanced version). The background theme will get more intense when the player is at four stars and very intense at five stars. The music will become passive when in hiding.
- It is possible to lose the cops by hiding in bushes, around trees and entering the tram (if in a bush, be wary that helicopters will still shoot at the player even if they are out of sight of the police).
- Should the player gain a wanted level during a mission, they will be prompted to lose it and the mission will be suspended until the wanted level is lost.
- NOOSE teams and Security Guards do not attempt to arrest the player, but security guards will shoot at them even if they have a one-star wanted level. Unlike Grand Theft Auto IV, NOOSE teams could arrest the player.
- In Grand Theft Auto Online, the player can hide in their apartment or garage to lose their wanted level; however, similar to the Los Santos Customs, the player can only enter if they are out of sight of the police. Police will occasionally spawn near the player's apartment if they have a high wanted level.
- If Michael enters his house or Trevor enters his strip club with a two or more star wanted level, anyone inside (Michael's family and the strip club staff) will evacuate the building.
- If the player is hanging out with one of the main protagonists and they have a wanted level, the other two protagonists will fire upon the police to get them away from whomever the player is controlling. Other friends (expect for Amanda) will stick their middle finger at the police and insult them.
- The LSSD (Los Santos Country Sheriff) will have no differences with the LSPD in driving and gunfight tactics (despite Lester claiming that the LSPD officers receive better training in Paleto Score Setup).
- The San Andreas Highway Patrol will pursue the player using Police Bikes and shoot players with their pistol even if having only one star. Notice that they do not appear normally during pursuits, and only chase the player if roaming near a spawn point (such as near a highway).
- If the player is on the road with a wanted level, police vehicles will sometimes spawn ahead on the road either slowly driving or remaining stationary, with their sirens off. This replicates a normal patrolling vehicle that is not aware of the player's approach but has the side-effect of causing players to confuse the police vehicles with other civilian vehicles in the traffic.
- It is possible for the player to escape the police in locations that would appear to be easily accessible to the pursuers. For example, the police will very rarely chase a player into the subway construction tunnel leading off the Del Perro Freeway under the Alta Street overpass.
- In Grand Theft Auto Online, there are several places where the search cone mode seems to ignore the vertical axis and police above ground can "see" players hiding in underground tunnels with no direct line of sight to the player.
- Should the player be in a stationary vehicle whilst out of sight of the police, the protagonist inside can be seen looking around anxiously until the police spot the player or give up.
- In the enhanced version, the police will drive-by shoot at the player if they fire at the police while in a vehicle.