ATLANTIC CITY – Fugitives hiding from the law will soon have the opportunity to surrender safely at a neutral location in Atlantic City, take responsibility for their crimes and receive favorable consideration from the court.
The initiative, called Fugitive Safe Surrender–New Jersey Southern Region will operate on Saturday, April 21 and Monday, April 23 through Wednesday, April 25 at Grace Assembly of God Church, 201 Atlantic Avenue in Atlantic City. Individuals will be able to turn themselves in at the church from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day. Their cases will be adjudicated at temporary courtrooms a few blocks away.
Fugitive Safe Surrender-New Jersey Southern Region will NOT operate on Sunday, April 22.
New Jersey Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa and New Jersey State Parole Board Chairman James T. Plousis said Fugitive Safe Surrender-New Jersey Southern Region represents an unprecedented, multi-agency collaboration in Atlantic, Cape May, Cumberland, Gloucester and Salem counties. An estimated 2,500 fugitives are expected to turn themselves during the four-day event. A total of more than 10,000 fugitives surrendered during the first three New Jersey Fugitive Safe Surrender events: Fugitive Safe Surrender-Camden in 2008 (2,245 fugitives surrendered); Fugitive Safe Surrender-Newark in 2009 (4,103 surrendered); and Fugitive Safe Surrender-New Jersey Central Region in 2010 (3,901 fugitives surrendered).
Fugitive Safe Surrender-New Jersey Southern Region is open to individuals wanted on warrants by New Jersey law enforcement officials for non-violent crimes or disorderly person offenses, including family matters and child support. The program is also open to those who live out of state but have open warrants in New Jersey. The program cannot process out-of-state court matters.
Fugitive Safe Surrender is not an amnesty program, but does offer favorable consideration from the court, often in the form of reduced fines or probation requirements instead of incarceration. Individuals wanted for violent crimes, or with previous convictions for violent crimes, may also surrender; however, those wanted for violent crimes are more likely to be taken into custody. At Fugitive Safe Surrender sites nationwide, only two percent of people that surrendered were taken into custody because the vast majority of those who turn themselves in are wanted for non-violent offenses and have no history of violence.
The initiative is only open to U.S. citizens, legal residents or those who lawfully in the United States. Individuals who are not in the United States lawfully are not eligible to participate.
“Fugitives Safe Surrender-New Jersey Southern Region offers those wanted on New Jersey warrants a last chance for a second chance,” Chiesa said. “The previous Fugitive Safe Surrenders events in New Jersey allowed more than 10,000 people to stop running from the law. We encourage anyone who is eligible to participate in Fugitive Safe Surrender–New Jersey Southern Region to take this opportunity, and all of the resources provided, to get a fresh start.”
“Those who turn themselves in will receive favorable consideration. Each case is different, but if you surrender peacefully you will get a much better outcome than if the police have to find you and bring you in,” said Plousis, a former U.S. Marshal. “Each participant reduces the danger inherent in fugitive apprehensions. They also save taxpayer dollars, and free up the police and courts to take on other matters.”
“I want the people out there to know that you’re not just names and files, that we realize you’re real people that have to go through life dealing with things hanging over your head,” Atlantic County Prosecutor Housel said. “This office [ACPO] is here to help you get on with the rest of your life.”
“I thank the Attorney General’s Office for giving Cumberland County residents who have warrants in the State of New Jersey the opportunity to take advantage of this very important program to clear their warrants and move forward not having to look over their shoulder,” Cumberland County Prosecutor Jennifer Webb-McRae said. “Making the choice to attend is a first step to removing barriers to driving eligibility and employment for many people. Everyone who is eligible should make it their business to avail themselves to Fugitive Safe Surrender–Southern New Jersey.”
“The Fugitive Safe Surrender Program is an opportunity for fugitives to surrender and to receive a more favorable outcome to their outstanding charges than if law enforcement officers had to exhaust our resources to search for and apprehend them,” Cape May County Prosecutor Robert L. Taylor said. “This program has been proven successful in other areas of the state and it is our hope that many of the citizens of southern New Jersey will take advantage of this unprecedented opportunity to take responsibility for their outstanding warrants.”
“Safe Surrender will remove the stigma of ‘fugitive’ from your name safely without having to ever look over your shoulder again,” Gloucester County Prosecutor Sean F. Dalton said. “Thousands of New Jersey residents who had warrants hanging over their heads have availed themselves of the Safe Surrender program since 2008. Investing a few hours of your time will pay dividends for you and your family. This is a golden opportunity for residents to take control of their lives and avoid living in fear.
“At the Salem County Prosecutor’s Office, we are embracing the program in partnership with the ministerium to assist fugitives and help jump start them towards a productive life,” Salem County Prosecutor John Lenahan said.
“The success of the Fugitive Safe Surrender program speaks for itself,” Sheriff Balles said. “This is an unprecedented opportunity for fugitives to make things right – not only for themselves but also for their families and the community. Life is difficult enough without having to look over your shoulder, wondering if this is the day you’ll be caught. This affords them the opportunity for a fresh start and safety for all those involved.”
“We are opening our church to Fugitive Safe Surrender because we believe in the benefits of offering a second chance to those who have broken the law,” Minister Fitzpatrick said. “By taking this big step, people who live in hiding today can find peace of mind, freedom within the law, and the opportunity to take on new responsibility for themselves and their families.”
“The Rutgers School of Criminal Justice and the Police Institute at Rutgers are proud to be coordinating this effort with our law enforcement and community partners,” Scott-Pickens said. “Fugitive Safe Surrender creates partnerships between law enforcement and community groups that last beyond the initial surrender event, and lead to ongoing benefits.”
The U.S. Marshals Service launched the first Fugitive Safe Surrender initiative in 2005, in Cleveland, Ohio, after a city police officer was murdered in the line of duty while attempting to capture a fugitive who had an open warrant for a non-violent offense. Since then, a total of 40,273 individuals have turned themselves in at 24 Fugitive Safe Surrender events nationwide.
In addition to coordinating the efforts of state and local law enforcement agencies, the Office of the Attorney General receives support from the Rutgers School of Criminal Justice and the Rutgers Police Institute, both of whom aid in convening stakeholder meetings, facilitating the training of volunteers and reaching out to social service agencies to participate in the event. The Salvation Army will also be on site to provide assistance, including food and drinks.
Fugitive Safe Surrender-New Jersey Southern Region is made possible through the leadership of the Office of the Attorney General and from funding provided by the U.S. Department of Justice.
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