ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. - Deputies said they are seeing more suspects run from the law, and many are deliberately driving on the wrong side of the road.
"Today, we're seeing a trend where, many of these individuals, the minute we turn the blue lights on them, they will cross the median strips and drive head-on into traffic as a means to escape," said Chuck Mulligan, spokesperson for the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office.
Mulligan said the number of chases is going up in the county.
"A lot of the folks we are encountering are coming from out of state, out of county," he said.
From 2014 to 2017, there were 29 chases, according to deputies. In 2018, and so far this year, there have been 27 – that's almost as many as during the previous four years.
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In February, deputies said, a pair decided to drive on the wrong side of the road and hit another car head-on. The two were avoiding being caught for stealing a purse. In August, a wild chase shut down part of I-95 after a man covered in blood took off from deputies. Investigators said he fled in a stolen undercover unmarked deputy's SUV.
Deputies said the most recent pursuit happened was over the weekend in a Walmart parking lot. Investigators said the suspect drove at a deputy at a high rate of speed. The deputy had to jump out of the way to avoid getting hit. Deputies said Joshua Ratliff took off down U.S. 1 south in a stolen car. He was eventually arrested after deputies used stop sticks.
Deputies said they are seeing more chases involving suspects accused of minor crimes.
"Today, we'll find folks who have very minor traffic offenses, nothing going on in their lives, and they'll run just because they figure deputies won't pursue them," Mulligan said.
But, he said, if they are putting innocent people's lives on the line, deputies will go after them.
"We've got to stop that individual," Mulligan said.
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