FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT:  Cathy J. Jones, Asst. Chief       
July 26, 2005 Northern District of Ohio (216) 276-3110

First-of-its-Kind Program Gives Felony Fugitives Incentive to Surrender

Fugitive Safe Surrender Logo

CLEVELAND - United States Marshal Pete Elliott will join Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Bill Mason, and other law enforcement, judicial, media, and religious leaders at Cleveland’s Mount Siani Baptist Church on Wednesday, July 27, 2005 at 11 a.m. to announce the launch of Fugitive Safe Surrender in Cuyahoga County. The idea for Fugitive Safe Surrender was generated by U.S. Marshal Pete Elliott and is an innovative faith-based pilot project that encourages fugitives with outstanding felony warrants to surrender to the court in safety at Mt. Siani Baptist Church, under the watch of the church’s Senior Pastor, Dr. C. Jay Matthews. The goal of Fugitive Safe Surrender is to reduce risk to neighborhoods in which fugitive’s hide, law enforcement officers who pursue fugitives, and fugitives themselves. Fugitive Safe Surrender is believed to be the first program of its kind in the nation.

From August 3-6, 2005, judges from the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court will hold court in church from 9am-5pm daily. The Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Office and will be present to assist in the identification of surrendering individuals and ensure the safety of all involved; the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office will be present to assess the facts of each case individually and make bond and plea recommendations to the court; and the Cuyahoga County Public Defender's Office will be present to represent surrendering persons who are indigent. Surrendering fugitives with no history of violence who are wanted for a non-violent offense may receive probation and services for their surrender; fugitives wanted for violent offenses and/or those who have a history of violence will receive favorable consideration from the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office and the Common Pleas Court for their surrender.

“Fugitives pose a serious risk to our neighborhoods, to law enforcement, and to themselves,” said Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Bill Mason “We’re pioneering a new approach here – partnering law enforcement, the community, the media, and the court to bring these individuals in and better protect the safety of everyone involved.” Partner organizations that have signed on to ensure the success of Fugitive Safe Surrender include the Cleveland Municipal Court, the Cuyahoga Regional Information System, the Cuyahoga County and City of Cleveland Clerks of Court, and the Cleveland Police Department. The Ohio Attorney General's Office's Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation is also providing technological assistance to the effort.

“In the Northern District of Ohio we have over 50,000 outstanding warrants”. We were looking at innovated steps to address our fugitive issue and serve our community”. “That’s what inspired this idea”. Said United States Marshal Pete Elliott.

Fugitive Safe Surrender non-profit/faith-based partners include the 5,000-member Mt. Siani Baptist Church, as well as the 100-church United Pastors in Mission. Lutheran Ministry's Community Re-Entry and its director, Charles See, are also essential Fugitive Safe Surrender partners, and nearly 50 members of Mt. Sinai's congregation have volunteered to assist in both the lead-up to and four-day implementation of the project. Fugitive Safe Surrender private sector partners include Clear Channel Radio, Clear Channel Outdoor, WKYC-TV3 (NBC) in Cleveland and DC Strategic Partners, LLC. There is an aggressive public outreach effort associated with the project in which these radio, television and outdoor companies have teamed with federal, state and local law enforcement, prosecutors and court authorities to provide significant airtime and billboard space at no cost. Additionally, more than 2,000 fliers are also being posted and distributed hand-to-hand across Cleveland's Fourth Police District - the project's target area - and 2,000 mailers are being sent to fugitives’ last known addresses to explain this unique opportunity and encourage participation. Signage is also being posted in the Cuyahoga County Justice Center, U.S. Courthouse and Mt. Sinai Baptist Church.

Fugitive Safe Surrender has established a toll-free hotline (1-877-9-NEW START), which fugitives or their loved ones may call to check their legal status and obtain more information on the program. Assistant prosecuting attorneys and sheriff’s deputies will answer that line from 9am-8pm July 25 through August 6, 2005.