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U.S. Marshals Service

Fugitive Safe Surrender

Camden, New Jersey - November 19-22, 2008

 

Fugitive Safe Surrender–Camden took place in November 2008, under the leadership of James T. Plousis, United States Marshal for the District of New Jersey.  Over the course of the four-day period, 2,245 individuals with outstanding warrants took the opportunity to surrender to law enforcement and help pave the way for a more successful future.

“I had no idea there’d be so many people filling my church,” said Pastor John O. Parker, Jr., who hosted Fugitive Safe Surrender in the Antioch Baptist Church, where he has served for almost 30 years.  Program organizers only expected 700-800 surrenderees, so they were amazed at the turnout.

Marshal Plousis had been trying to bring Fugitive Safe Surrender to Camden since he first heard about the pilot program in Cleveland in 2005.  “We had to do something.  We couldn’t arrest our way out of being the most dangerous city,” he said.  Early attempts, however, were complicated by court officials who expressed concern about church and state interactions.  After a compromise was reached that established the surrender site at Antioch Baptist Church, but with the courtrooms across the street in the community room of a senior apartment complex, Fugitive Safe Surrender–Camden was able to proceed.

“It’s faith-based help merging with law enforcement,” said Pastor Parker.  “It’s always been that stigma of separation of church and state.  But we need to work together to bring this kind of change.”

Sharon Longinetti, the head of the State Parole Board’s Fugitive Apprehension Unit, praised the program, saying “they can stop looking over their shoulder.  These people can’t get legal jobs because we’ll find them that way.  This is an opportunity for them to stop worrying about somebody knocking on their door and taking them back to jail.” 

Ms. Longinetti points out that the program also has advantages for law enforcement and the community at large, explaining that her officers are “putting their safety on the line every day, in addition to the fugitive’s safety and the safety of whoever they’re living with.”

One surrenderee reported that being wanted meant he “basically had to be like a bear hibernating in my home because the cops know who I am.  If they see me, they’d lock me up . . . . I feared walking out of my front door.”

As always, successful Fugitive Safe Surrender operations require the cooperation and collaboration of numerous agencies.  In Camden, these included the following front-line law enforcement agencies:  the Camden County Office of the Sheriff, the Camden Police Department, the Salem County Sheriff’s Department, the New Jersey State Police, the New Jersey Department of Corrections, and the New Jersey State Parole Board.

Legal partners included the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office, the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice, the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General, the New Jersey Office of the Public Defender, the Superior Court of New Jersey, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey.

Substantial assistance was provided by the Diocese of Camden, and the Rutgers University Camden-Safer Cities Initiative.  Funding was provided by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, a part of the U.S. Department of Justice/Office of Justice Programs.

Community, non-profit, and corporate partners included:  Airline Construction, Area Health Education Center, Borgata Casino, Camden County One Stop Career Center, Camden Special Services, Catholic Charities, Center for Family Services, Community Planning and Advocacy Council, Democracy USA, District Council Collaborative Board District 1, District Council Collaborative Board District 2, District Council Collaborative Board District 3, District Council Collaborative Board District 4, E &J Automotive, Empire Beauty School, Granite Transformation, Hispanic Family Center, Hi-Temp Specialty Metals, Motor Vehicle Commission, NVR Building Products, Respond, Inc., Rowan University, Rutgers University, The Salvation Army, To & Fro Transportation, Volunteers of America, and Welcome NJ.

Camden was the 12th city to implement Fugitive Safe Surrender under the guidance of the United States Marshals Service.
 

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