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U.S. Marshals Service

Fugitive Safe Surrender

Cleveland, Ohio – August 3-6, 2005

Mount Sinai Baptist ChurchThe Fugitive Safe Surrender was the idea of 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 believed that temporarily transforming a church into a courthouse so fugitives could turn themselves in, in an atmosphere where they feel comfortable would encourage fugitives to surrender making it safer for the community reducing the risk to law enforcement officers who pursue fugitives, to the neighborhoods in which they hide, and to the fugitives themselves.

Marshal Elliott brought the Fugitive Safe Surrender concept to Douglas Weiner of DC Strategic Partners and a coalition was built of local criminal justice authorities, the Cleveland’s religious community, and other civic leaders to launch the first Fugitive Safe Surrender program in August 2005.

The partnership included the Cuyahoga County Prosecuting Attorney, the Cuyahoga Sheriff’s Office, the Cuyahoga County Court Presiding Judge and Public Defender’s Office, the Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry's Community Re-Entry, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, the Ohio Attorney General, the Cleveland Municipal Court Presiding Judge, the Cleveland Police Department, the Cuyahoga Regional Information System; Clear Channel Radio, WKYC-TV Channel 3 (NBC), Radio One, and NFL Hall of Famer Jim Brown - founder of the Amer-I-Can Foundation.

Over the next year, surrender guidelines were established, a detailed project workflow was developed, an IS/IT infrastructure was constructed in the church, a security plan was designed, mobile LEADS and AFIS technology were secured, community volunteers were recruited and trained, and a media/grass roots campaign was created.

On Wednesday, August 3, 2005, Mount Sinai Baptist Church opened its doors for fugitives to surrender under the leadership of Reverend C. Jay Matthews. Over the next four days, 850 persons turned themselves in for a wide range of criminal violations. In total, 340 felony cases were processed including individuals wanted for rape, felonious assault, burglary, and high-level drug offenses, resulting in six peaceful arrests – 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.


Fugitive Safe Surrender


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