1,300 fugitives turn themselves in during operation
More than 1,300 fugitives voluntarily turned themselves in to lawenforcement officials in Phoenix two weeks ago as part of a U.S. Marshals Service program to allow people wanted for nonviolent felony or misdemeanor crimes to surrender.
The fugitives, including 300 with outstanding felony warrants, turned themselves in to authorities at the Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church as part of “Operation Safe Surrender,” U.S. Marshal David Gonzales said in Phoenix on Nov. 22. The operation aims to reduce the risk to law-enforcement officers who pursue fugitives.
Thosewhosurrenderedintheoperation, which ran from Nov. 15 through Nov. 18, did so peacefully to take advantage of what Mr. Gonzales called a “brief, one-time opportunity to take their first step toward a second chance in life.”
Hesaidthefugitivessurrendered to deputy marshals and local authorities at a temporary community court established in an administrative building next to the Pilgrim Rest church. Many had their cases heard by a judge, while others received future court dates.
EvenaftertheNov.19churchservices, one day after the official end of the Safe Surrender program, Mr. Gonzales said 40 more fugitives showed up to turn themselves in.
“Thisprogrammeetsaverypowerful need,” said Pilgrim Rest’s leader, Bishop Alexis Thomas. “The authorities want fugitives to stop running, and as we plainly witnessed here, many nonviolent fugitives want to come in and get a second chance at life.
“Fugitive Safe Surrender gives them that opportunity, and our church was pleased to serve as a core partner in the program’s success,” he said.
The project’s core government partnersincludedMaricopaCounty Sheriff Joe Arpaio and County Attorney Andrew Thomas. The Arizona Attorney General’s Office also participated.
“Our criminal justice system here is one of the finest in the nation,” Mr. Gonzales said. “I moved quickly last fall to bring this program here because I strongly believe in its mission and I knew that MaricopaCountywouldserveasan outstanding proving ground.”
Implementation of the Safe Surrender Program is expected next year in Indianapolis, and in Akron andRichmond,Ohio.TheMarshals Service Fugitive Task Force in Arizona began a countywide fugitive roundup last week targeting the people who did not take advantage of the program.
Adel Calles sat with her grandson, Bobby Garcia, while waiting to talk to a public defender after turning herself in at Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church in Phoenix on Nov. 15.