JERSEY CITY – A record-breaking total of 4,587 individuals voluntarily and peacefully turned themselves in at last week’s four-day Fugitive Safe Surrender event, resolving an estimated total of approximately 10,000 nonviolent criminal and civil warrants at Evangelismos Church in Jersey City, New Jersey Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman announced today.
This striking result represents the highest turnout of all five Fugitive Safe Surrender events held so far in New Jersey. (The previous record was set at New Jersey’s second FSS event, held 2009 in Newark). With this event, a total of nearly 18,000 individuals have turned themselves in at New Jersey’s five Fugitive Safe Surrender opportunities.
The FSS event in Jersey City also had the third-highest turnout of the 26 Fugitive Safe Surrender events held nationwide since 2005, surpassed only by those held in the much larger cities of Cleveland (where 7,200 fugitives surrendered in 2010) and Detroit (where 6,578 surrendered in 2008).
“This Fugitive Safe Surrender event was a tremendous, record-breaking success that will touch thousands of lives for the better – not just the nearly 5,000 individuals who surrendered, but the lives of their loved ones and fellow New Jerseyans,” Hoffman said. “By offering favorable consideration, not amnesty, New Jersey has helped an astounding 18,000 individuals begin to build new lives through Fugitive Safe Surrender. This is exactly the sort of collaborative partnership that helps break the cycle of unlawful behavior and makes our communities safer.”
New Jersey State Parole Board Chairman James T. Plousis said, “The number of peaceful surrenders has exceeded our expectations and resulted in the third-largest Fugitive Safe Surrender event in the nation. Every single individual who took advantage of this program has made New Jersey safer. The former fugitives can finally walk in public without the fear that they will be stopped by law enforcement. This in turn frees up police resources that can better be used on other public safety matters.”
One success story from this Fugitive Safe Surrender event is that of Dessaix Maurissette, 25, a Jersey City resident who was wanted on multiple warrants for which he owed more than $2,000 due to traffic violations. Maurissette said he had paid surcharges but struggled to pay the total amount owed in multiple municipalities.
“I realized it’s time to plan for my future, and to stop being held back by expensive mistakes made when I was younger,” Maurissette said. “I plan to get married and start a family someday. I realized I can no longer live with the fear that I might get pulled over and taken to jail while trying to drive my wife to deliver a baby, or driving to pick up diapers. Fugitive Safe Surrender gave me my future. I was able to resolve my matters with a single, $100 payment, clear my warrants, and finally breathe as a free person.”
Another success story is that of Eddie Restrepo. Restrepo, 33, of West New York, lived in fear for years under the weight of multiple unpaid traffic tickets. But after he turned himself into the Fugitive Safe Surrender Program in Jersey City Wednesday morning, he walked away a free man with a clean record. Restrepo expected to pay thousands in fines but instead paid only a few hundred to resolve his warrants. After completing the Fugitive Safe Surrender program, he immediately decided to help out and volunteered at the program afterwards.
“This really saved my life,” Restrepo said. “It was a load off my back. I felt free.”
Fugitive Safe Surrender offered favorable consideration, not amnesty, to U.S. citizens and legal residents who were wanted on warrants for non-violent criminal or municipal matters.
A total of approximately $40,000 in municipal and superior court income was collected during the four-day event, and more will be collected as hundreds of overflow cases are heard this week, officials said. Still more will be collected on a scheduled basis from those assigned payment plans.
In addition, each person who surrenders represents an estimated savings of $500 to local governments, according to authorities. This very conservative estimate is based on the police and jail costs involved in processing someone wanted on a municipal traffic warrant.
- Of the nearly 5,000 who surrendered, only two were taken into custody. This is because the vast majority of participants were wanted for non-violent matters and had no violent criminal history.
- An estimated 63 percent were wanted for traffic warrants.
- An estimated 33 percent were wanted for misdemeanor criminal warrants.
- An estimated 4 percent were wanted for child support, family court, or probation warrants.
- A number estimated at less than one percent were wanted for felony warrants.
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