In an effort to promote both officer safety and a peaceful way for individuals wanted on warrants to surrender, the United States Marshal Service and the United States Department of Justice created the Fugitive Safe Surrender Program in 2005. "In 2000, local police were executing an arrest warrant for a motor vehicle violation in Cleveland. When law enforcement went to the house to serve the warrant, the man pulled out a weapon and killed one of the officers. Fugitive Safe Surrender was designed by U.S. Marshal Peter Elliot as a better way to clear up these warrants," former U.S. Marshal James Plousis explains.
Between 2005 and 2010, more than 35,000 people peacefully surrendered in 22 cities in order to receive favorable consideration or have their old fines dismissed. New Jersey elected to replicate the initiative in several cities across the state. With the cooperation of law enforcement, the judiciary, church and community leaders, New Jersey had nearly 18,000 individuals participate in this voluntary process.
New Jersey touted economic benefits from these initiatives including revenue received on outstanding fines as well as cost savings to local governments including jail and processing costs avoided. Predictably, the overwhelming majority of warrants in New Jersey were for low level traffic and municipal matters.
The U.S. Marshal's Fugitive Safe Surrender Program ended due to budget cuts. "I've been to over a dozen of these events around the country and it's always a positive experience for everybody involved but especially for law enforcement. I know many get a new appreciation for the tough times that people are in and this puts a real face on some people that were only warrant numbers in the past," states Plousis. Local initiatives continue today on a much smaller basis such as Antioch Baptist Church in Camden, New Jersey, which assists individuals with outstanding warrants on a monthly basis through their "Safe Path" initiative. While some committed organizations remain, so do the burdens of legal financial obligations for those without the means to pay.
To learn more about Antioch Baptist Church's efforts in the City of Camden, please see video below.
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