Fugitives from all over N.J. turning themselves in

With two days left, nearly 1,500 people have turned themselves in as part of New Jersey’s Fugitive Safe Surrender program, operated by the state Parole Board.

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

The total includes 936 who voluntarily surrendered Wednesday, smashing last year’s total. And although the base of operations is a Somerset County church, fugitives from throughout the state have made their way there.

“The opportunity to surrender at a neutral location – this magnificent church – and receive favorable consideration from the court, is helping so many people get back on track towards leading productive, law-abiding lives,” New Jersey Attorney General Paula T. Dow said.

“If you have an outstanding warrant, many doors will be closed, many opportunities will be missed, especially job opportunities to allow you to lead a productive life,” Dow said. “I encourage any fugitive out there, who is debating whether or not to take action, to do it.”

One of the benefits is that it reduces the potential for harm to both law enforcement and to someone “wanted wanted even for minor offenses such as unpaid municipal fines,” said State Parole Board Chairman James T. Plousis, a former U.S. Marshal who knows a thing or two about tracking and capturing those who’ve fled justice.

Those who have come in so far “represent a tremendous success for public safety, and for the lives of those who will no longer have to live in hiding,” he added.

It’s not amnesty, as officials noted. It’s an opportunity for someone who’s gone astray to make things right.

For the state, it’s a money-saver: Estimates are that each person who voluntarily surrenders on a non-violent municipal offense — such as unpaid parking fees — represents a savings of roughly $420, including the cost of the average two-and-a-half-day jail stay and the labor invested in tracking, arresting, transporting and processing the fugitive.

Then you’ve got the owed money they pony up, which go into municipal coffers — as well as the increased odds that someone with a cleaned slate can get a job and contribute to society.

The program, which began Wednesday, will continue through Saturday at First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens, 771 Somerset Street, Somerset, NJ 08873.

“Individuals wanted on warrants issued by any New Jersey state, county or municipal law enforcement agency may voluntarily surrender at the church from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on those days, the Parole Board said in a release.

Those wanted for non-violent offenses who turn themselves in “will be given favorable consideration for their decision to voluntarily and peacefully surrender, face the court and take responsibility for their offenses,” the board said. “Individuals wanted for violent crimes may also surrender, but they are very likely to be taken into custody.”

To this point, no felons have shown up. Everyone has been able to either pay up on the spot or make arrangements to pay.

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