WEATHERFORD, Texas — When a 46-year-old man with now 11 felony convictions was sentenced to 80 years behind bars this week by a Parker County jury, even Jeff Swain was a little surprised.
“That is a long time,” said the assistant district attorney. “[But] he did go on a long chase.”
Timothy Williams took a handful of Weatherford police officers on a dangerous, 20-plus mile pursuit in 2015.
Speeds reached 90 to 100 miles per hour after Williams failed to stop when police tried to pull him over for a simple traffic stop. Meth was also found in his car, according to case records.
Swain says he has noticed an uptick in vehicle pursuit cases during the past couple of years.
“There are a lot of blind corners & hills. Ya’ get to the top of a hill really quickly when you’re going 85, 90, 95 mph,” said Swain. “When a pursuit is going on, he doesn’t know who is out there, what kind of traffic is out there.”
In 2016 alone, Parker County prosecuted at least 40 felony cases that included vehicular evading arrest charges.
“When the no pursuit policy gets a lot of publicity in the media, then all of a sudden you have people who are encouraged to flee, rather than discouraged. When you give the criminal the police playbook, you’re telling them what you’re going to do,” he said. “I think the issue isn’t the policy itself but the publicity.”
Weatherford police say their department usually handles about ten pursuits a year.
Sgt. Jason Hayes said while they haven’t a noticed a recent increase within city limits, it was certainly possible that cities with strict pursuit policies are changing how suspects act.
“If that city doesn’t go after, they’re just gonna run,” he said.
The Parker County Sheriff’s Office, which patrols the vast majority of the county’s 900 square miles, wasn’t able to readily provide data on their year-to-year chases.
Earlier on Thursday, a high-speed chase that started in Fort worth ended near Dallas in the Highland Park area.
A pair of Fort Worth officers came under scrutiny two years ago after violating the department’s chase policy in a highly-publicized pursuit on I-30.
Dallas’ officers face a highly restricted pursuit policy implemented about a decade ago, but other agencies in that area allow for far more officer discretion.