By Desirée Taylor
Hundreds of people waited in a long line outside the Jersey City Armory for the chance to resolve old warrants.
“Fugitive Safe Surrender is where somebody has the opportunity to come in and surrender at a church and get all their criminal as well as traffic as well as child support matters resolved in one opportunity,” said State Parole Board Chair James Plousis.
“Just the first day yesterday we had over 1,000 people here. That’s 1,000 potential and unsafe and dangerous incidents that have been rectified,” said Acting Attorney General John Hoffman.
Officials point out this is not amnesty program, but any non-violent offender who turns himself in can seek favorable consideration from the judge. And 99 percent of participants typically go home the same day.
Andre Hammond arrived hours before the doors opened at 8 a.m. By noon his warrants for traffic violations were cleared.
When asked if participating in the program is this a relief, Hammond said, “Yes, always scared walking outside getting locked up. This is a great relief off my chest right now.”
This is how the process works. First, fugitives go to the church and surrender. Then they go to the armory, which is set up to address all of their needs. One section of the armory has a computer area where they can check on their warrants. There are a couple of rooms where they meet their attorneys. And there are a host of court rooms where they can go before the judge. And finally, there are cashiers so they can pay their fines.
Because many of the warrants stem from traffic violations, Motor Vehicle staff are also participating in this program.
“We have an entire staff downstairs that will take their information and update it, a bilingual staff. We have a staff downstairs take their information, put together a road map to how they will be able to regain their driving privileges,” said Motor Vehicle Commission Director Raymond Martinez
Clearing up warrants helps reduce the backlog at most courts and can put someone on the road to a better future says former Gov. Jim McGreevey, who is now the director of Jersey City’s employment and training program.
“Outstanding warrants are one of the greatest obstacles to employment,” McGreevey said. “Having this program helps people clear up their past and become employer ready.”
“Everyone deserves a second chance. I am going to make my payments, get my license back. Now I can move forward,” said Hammond.
This is the fifth Fugitive Safe Surrender program. A total of more than 13,000 people surrendered at the previous four events held across the state. The Jersey City program runs through Saturday.