JERSEY CITY –
The tally is in. The Fugitive Safe Surrender program held Nov. 6-9 in Hudson County not only exceeded the state’s expectations, it set a record.
At a press conference last week, New Jersey Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman announced that a total of 4,587 individuals had turned themselves in to authorities, resolving an estimated 10,000 warrants for nonviolent criminal and civil offenses.
This was the highest tally thus far for the program in N.J., exceeding the numbers for each of the five Fugitive Safe Surrenders (FSS) held in the state since 2008.
It was also the third highest in the U.S. since the nationwide program was launched in 2005, with Jersey City bested only by two far larger cities: Cleveland (where 7,200 fugitives surrendered in 2010) and Detroit (6,578 in 2008).
The previous N.J. record was set 2009 in Newark, where 4,103 people surrendered.
At the Jersey City event, the first ever held in Hudson County, fugitives reported to Evangelismos Church and were then escorted across the street to the Jersey City Armory, where judges were waiting to adjudicate the cases.
During the first three days, 2,951 fugitives showed up.
Authorities had expected at least 1,000 more on the fourth and final day. The actual last-day tally was 1,636.
FSS was not an amnesty program, but it did allow U.S. citizens and legal residents with N.J. warrants for nonviolent offenses to receive “favorable consideration” from the judicial system.
Among the Jersey City FSS statistics provided by Hoffman’s office:
* Of the 4,587 fugitives who surrendered, only two were taken into custody. “This is because the vast majority of participants were wanted for nonviolent matters and had no violent criminal history,” a statement from the AG noted.
* An estimated 63% were wanted on traffic warrants.
* An estimated 33% were wanted for misdemeanors.
* An estimated 4% were wanted on child support, Family Court or probation warrants.
* Less than 1% were wanted for felonies. Hoffman also cited the economic impacts of FSS, reporting that:
* Approximately $40,000 in municipal and superior court income was collected during the four-day event.
* More would be collected as hundreds of overflow cases were heard last week, and additional monies would come in on a scheduled basis from those who were assigned payment plans.
According to the AG’s statement, each person who surrendered represents an estimated savings of $500 to local governments. That “very conservative” figure is based on “the police and jail costs involved in processing someone wanted on a municipal traffic warrant.”
Less tangible benefits reportedly will follow when a former fugitive is eligible to apply for driver’s license reinstatement, resulting in “employment and other opportunities that come with having a state-issued identification and privilege to drive.”
Speaking at the press conference, State Parole Board Chairman James Plousis said, “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.”