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A Wanted Level in Grand Theft Auto V is a measure of how much the player is wanted by the Los Santos Police Department and other Law Enforcements. Unlike previous games, GTA V only has five wanted star rankings, ranking police lethality from the non-lethal one star to the extremely aggressive five stars. Note that the increased police aggression as well as better AI and deadlier weapons do compensate for the missing sixth star. Unlike in GTA IV, where it was comparatively easier to evade the police, the cops in GTA V are more brutal, smarter and search far more effectively for the player if eluded.
At a one star wanted level, the police will chase the player and attempt to arrest them by holding them 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. 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. In GTA Online, however, it is shoot to kill from the first star due to the lack of the Busted mechanic.
A one star wanted level can be aquired by committing the following crimes:
- Discharging a firearm.
- Causing the 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 higher levels.)
- Harassing police, either by honking at them, flipping them off, talking to them repeatedly, or even standing next to them for too long.
- Killing a security guard.
- Acquired if a pedestrian calls the police on the player for harrassing.
- Spotted in a stolen vehicle. (GTA Online)
- Taking a picture of a police officer with the phone's Snapmatic feature.
- Blocking the police car's path for too long.
At a two star wanted level, the police become more agressive. They now shoot to kill and during pursuits, officers actively chase the player and drive much more agressively, now attempting to ram the player. 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 and cut him off. Police will not attempt a vehicular arrest, unless a pursuit has lasted for approximately one minute without hurting any cops and the player stops his vehicle (GTA V only, not GTA Online as they will simply shoot). At this wanted level, a maximum of 3 police cars will be chasing the player.
A two star wanted level can be aquired by committing the following crimes:
- 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.
- Killing a paramedic.
- Killing a firefighter.
- Landing on a cable car with a parachute.
- Shooting a gun in sight of police.
- Killing pedestrians while already at a one star wanted level.
- Exploding vehicles.
- Flying over the airspace of 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 Busted in GTA Online, this will simply be two stars in the store.)
- Stealing any vehicle that was requested by Simeon. (GTA Online)
- Sometimes when switching to Trevor, the player will find themselves in a police pursuit with a two-star wanted level.
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 transporter vans now also will be called in to deploy spike strips. All police officers will be wearing a bullet proof vest from now on. Police officers will run up to you if you are stationary in a vehicle, drag you out and waste you with their current weapon. A police helicopter is called in to follow the player around, shining its spotlight on him at night and let its gunners fire at the player. On the water, police predator boats will be sent in to chase the player. Police will not attempt a vehicular arrest, unless a pursuit has lasted for approximately one minute without hurting any cops and the player stops his vehicle (GTA V only, not GTA Online as they will simply shoot), however they will shoot mindlessly and will probably drag you from your car and kill you. A maximum of 4 police cars and a helicopter will be sent after the player at any given time, but when passing a roadblock, officers will get in their vehicles in order to give chase to the player.
A three star wanted level can be aquired by committing the following crimes:
- Killing, injuring or attacking a police officer or any other law enforcement officer.
- Driving into or landing in Los Santos International Airport (when the player does not own a hanger or as Trevor.)
- Shooting the cashier during or after robbing a store. (GTA Online)
- Shooting down the Atomic Blimp.
- Killing the guard guarding the Fort Zancudo at the main entrance.
- Going up to the second floor or above of the LSPD police station in Mission Row.
- Colliding into aircraft and destroying it.
- Blowing up several vehicles at once.
- Blowing up the back of the doors from the Securicar truck. (GTA Online)
- Robbing several stores in within a certain amount of time without changing glasses or masks. (GTA Online).
At a four star wanted level, NOOSE teams will be sent in to eliminate the player. They will arrive in FIB or Sherrif SUVs, depending on wether they are in Los Santos or the countryside. 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 cops and the player stops his vehicle (GTA V only, not GTA Online as they will simply shoot). At this wanted level, a maximum of 5 police ground vehicles and 3 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. During The Paleto Score, military officers and Rhino tanks will also give chase.
A four star wanted level can be aquired by committing the following crimes:
- Continuing to retaliate against law enforcement.
- Destroying a police maverick while a wanted level is in full force(has not been tested on wanted levels below three stars).
- Trespassing in the Zancudo Army Base or the Humane Labs and Research facility.
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, with numerous police cars and NOOSE vehicles looking for the player and the police setting up multiple roadblocks at a time. At 5 stars multiple 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 cops and the player stops his vehicle (GTA V only, not GTA Online as they will simply shoot). At this wanted level there can be a maximum of 6 police ground vehicles and 4 police mavericks chasing the player, but officers in roadblocks will also give chase when their roadblock is no longer useful. Also noticeable is the significant higher amount of NOOSE units compared to 4 stars. During The Paleto Score, military officers and Rhino tanks will also give chase, and the Rhinos will also fire at you.
A five star wanted level can be acquired by committing the following crimes:
- Continuing to retaliate against law enforcement.
- Killing a large amount of police personnel.
- Destroying a large amount of cars, boats, bikes, helicopters, or other vehicles.
Around Fort Zancudo, if the player is driving near the Gate, he should notice military jeeps coming down to chase the player, as if they were LSPD/Sheriff. It is unknown why they do this due to the Posse Comitatus Act, but it could be because the player is near the Military Base and due to the fact that the player has three to five stars, he's considered a threat to national security and they are responding in an orderly fashion to eliminate the player. At this point, little to no Rhinos or Barracks will chase the player outside the base.
In the mission Franklin and Lamar, when the player get wanted level for first time, the next instruction 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.
- It is the only game in the series since Grand Theft Auto not to have six-star wanted level.
- If you are in a vehicle and being chased by the police, civilians will occasionally help the cops by trying to ram you off the road.
- Besides hiding and using the lose wanted level cheat, the player can activate the skyfall cheat and fly around San Andreas to lose the cops. Also if the player hides deep inside the ocean, the cops will lose sight of you.
- The cone shapes on the radar during a wanted level were first seen in the Driver series.
- The player cannot switch characters if they are wanted.