Those with outstanding warrants looking for a safe place to approach authorities about their crimes will have an opportunity to so in Summit County this month.
Representatives of the Ohio Attorney General’s Office signed an agreement with 18 Summit County partners to hold the Attorney General’s Fugitive Safe Surrender program June 25-28 at The House of the Lord in Akron.
The Fugitive Safe Surrender program was developed to give people with outstanding warrants for minor felonies and misdemeanors the opportunity to rectify their issues in a safe setting, like a church.
Prosecutors and other officials will be available to talk to people with outstanding warrants about the best course of action to take. The House of the Lord Pastor Herman Matherson will also be available.
Summit County has 6,000 active felony warrants. In Akron, Barberton and Stow, there are 16,000 active misdemeanor warrants.
Summit County Deputy Chief Assistant Prosecutor John Galonski said the goal is to have 1,500 people surrender over the course of the four days. In 2007, when the program was first introduced in the county, 1,125 people surrendered, and in 2009, the number increased to 1,350 people.
Galonski said conducting the program in a community-based setting, like a church, has been a key element in the program’s success because it is more appealing to people than a courthouse.
“A church gives a reassuring environment; it’s more welcoming,” he said.
Galonski said the program has been very successful in that it eliminates a safety threat when arrests are being made.
In the 10-year period from 1998 to 2007, 53 police officers were killed while serving warrants across the country, according to a Case Western Reserve University research article by Daniel Flannery and Jeff Kretschmar.
“Arrests put officers in danger, they put individuals and bystanders in the area in danger and they put the person who is being arrested, too, in danger,” he said. “The program lets people get their warrants cleared up and their case can be judged in a more comfortable setting.”
Galonski said participants receive “favorable consideration” when coming in to surrender themselves; however, the Fugitive Safe Surrender program is not an amnesty program.
This is the first year since 2009 that the program will be conducted in Summit County. Galonski said the program had been coordinated by the U.S. Marshal for the Northern District of Ohio. This year the program has been coordinated by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine. Galonski said the transition between the two delayed the program being started up again in Summit County.
The Fugitive Safe Surrender program begins June 25 and continues through the 28 at The House of the Lord, 1650 Diagonal Road in Akron. The program runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day. However, as long as participants arrive by 5, they will be accepted.