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November 15, 2006 U.S. Marshals Headquarters
Office of Public Affairs, (202) 307-9065
Fugitives Invited To Surrender – In Church
Marshals Service Program Kicks Off in Phoenix

PHOENIX, AZ – The United States Marshals Service (USMS) announces that fugitives in Maricopa County, Arizona, will have a one-time opportunity to take their first step toward a second chance. Under a new Marshals Service program known as Fugitive Safe Surrender, individuals with outstanding warrants lodged against them can surrender to authorities in a safe and non-threatening environment. In this case, the program will be held at Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church in Phoenix. At the urging of David Gonzales, United States Marshal for the District of Arizona, and Pilgrim Rest Pastor Bishop Alexis A. Thomas, fugitives can surrender to authorities, consult with an attorney, and meet with a judge . . . all inside the friendly confines of the church.

Fugitive Safe Surrender does not offer amnesty in exchange for surrender; rather, it offers individuals who want to re-enter the mainstream of their communities a first step toward a second chance in the form of favorable consideration from the court.

Not only will fugitives be able to surrender to authorities in a non-threatening environment, but for many of these individuals – particularly if they have no history of violence and are willing to accept responsibility for their actions – their cases will be adjudicated on site. While some will receive a future court date, nearly all will go home from the church without jail time.

The program kicks off on Wednesday, November 15, and runs through Saturday, November 18, at Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church, located at 1401 East Jefferson Street in Phoenix. However, Marshal Gonzales has confirmed that when the surrender period ends, the Marshals Service will assist state and local law enforcement agencies in conducting fugitive sweeps throughout Maricopa County.

The Fugitive Safe Surrender concept was initiated by Peter J. Elliott, United States Marshal for the Northern District of Ohio, whose motivation for creating the program stemmed from the murder of Cleveland police officer Wayne Leon by a fugitive six years ago. A career law enforcement officer, Marshal Elliott realized that desperate people commit desperate acts, sometimes with tragic consequences. He believed that many non-violent fugitives wanted for low-level felonies desired a second chance at life but were fearful of turning themselves in to police officers, sheriff’s deputies, or the Marshals Service. Seeking a creative alternative, the Marshal partnered with local criminal justice authorities, Cleveland’s religious community, and other civic leaders to launch the first Fugitive Safe Surrender program in August 2005.

During the four-day operation, 850 fugitives surrendered at Cleveland’s Mount Sinai Baptist Church – more than 13 times the number who were arrested in the three-day sweep conducted soon after the surrender period ended. As a result of this successful effort, Marshals Service Director John F. Clark adopted the Fugitive Safe Surrender concept as a national program.

“The Cleveland pilot was highly successful and produced some incredible numbers,” said Marshal Gonzales. “The next step is to see if we can approach those numbers again, and given the quality of the leaders in our local criminal justice system, I made every effort to bring the program here. I am confident that our results will match, if not surpass, those that were achieved in Cleveland.”

“When a fugitive surrenders voluntarily, everyone is safer,” said Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas, whose office will participate in the Phoenix event. “Officers don’t face confrontation on the streets, and residents aren’t placed in harm’s way as happens when a fugitive chooses to flee or fight. But those people who surrender also have to be willing to stand before a judge and accept responsibility for their actions. Once they do that, the law allows prosecutors and judges to afford them favorable consideration for doing the right thing.”

Fugitive Safe Surrender is your last chance before my deputies find you and throw you in jail,” said Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. “You can do it the easy way – through Fugitive Safe Surrender – or you can do it the hard way, in pink handcuffs sitting in the back of a patrol car.”

Participating partners in the Phoenix Fugitive Safe Surrender operation are the United States Marshals Service District of Arizona, the Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church, the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, the Arizona Attorney General’s Office, Hewlett-Packard, Cox Media, Hughes-Calihan, ValueOptions, and D.C. Strategic Parners, LLC.

Are you an American Citizen wanted for a non-violent felony crime and have no history of violence?  If you are, you can surrender in safety at Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church from November 15-18, 2006.

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