At the start of the Fugitive Safe Surrender program last weekend, Mayor Rawlings-Blake said the event would be a success if it gave just one person a second chance. However, officials have so far counted 979 Baltimore City residents who turned themselves in to authorities and are now able to move forward with their lives.
From June 16-19, Baltimore City residents with an open, non-violent felony or misdemeanor warrant were offered a safe and secure location to turn themselves in and receive favorable consideration with the courts.
During the four days, 989 misdemeanor warrants were cleared, 50 felony warrants were cleared, and 159 individuals who believed that they had open warrants for their arrest proved to have none.
"Our goal was to have individuals come to have these warrants resolved favorably and to remove these as an impediment from allowing them to get a job or driver license," said Kimberly Barranco, executive director of the Baltimore City Criminal Justice Coordinating Council. "That has been taken care of."
Barranco said some people had to be taken into custody because their warrants did not fit the parameters of the program; a few people were arrested for murder or attempted murder. But, the majority of people were wanted for low-level offenses such as loitering and small theft charges.
"It was a wide range," she said.
The screenings were held at New Metropolitan Baptist Church and the court proceedings were next door at the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Outreach Center. Many individuals expressed shock that something that had been looming over their heads for years could be resolved in one day, at a single location, and in a friendly manner.
The oldest person to attend the event was an 85-year-old man who had three misdemeanor warrants issued in the early 1970s. Escorted by his two daughters, the man reported a great amount of pride for finally having a clear record and conscience.
A young woman with a pending nursing job was relieved when the warrant she had for years was resolved in several hours. She is set to graduate from a nursing program and will now be able to pass the background checks necessary to secure employment.
And a young man in the process of military recruitment can now have his record expunged since his charge has been dropped. "A number of people brought family and friends with them," Barranco said. "Some were nervous, but the people were very calm and patient in the sanctuary."
The U.S. Marshals Service said the streets of Baltimore City are now safer for both citizens and local law enforcement. Fugitive Safe Surrender has also been praised in other cities, such as Newark, N.J., and Wilmington, Del., and is now headed to Las Cruces, N.M., and Boston.
"We were very, very pleased with the turnout," Barranco said. "We helped hundreds of people."