CLEVELAND (AP) — A nationwide program that allows fugitives accused of nonviolent crimes to safely surrender at churches has been eliminated by the U.S. Marshals Service because it didn’t fit the service’s mission of catching violent fugitives, a spokesman said.

More than 34,000 people in 20 cities have turned themselves in through Fugitive Safe Surrender, which got its start in Cleveland in 2005 in response to the killing of a police officer by a fugitive during a traffic stop.

Spokesman Jeff Carter told The Plain Dealer of Cleveland for Sunday’s editions that the program cost $250,000 annually. Funding was dropped this year after a review of programs aimed at reducing violent crime.

“While Fugitive Safe Surrender’s goals were laudable, the agency could not sustain this unfunded initiative,” Carter said.

The program paired the marshals with other law enforcement agents and churches. It set a record in Cleveland in September when more than 7,400 fugitives surrendered in a four-day event, topping the roughly 6,600 who had turned themselves in at a Detroit church hosting the program in a 2008.

Safe Surrender events have been held in cities in Arizona, Delaware, Florida, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee and Washington, D.C.

About 10 percent of those surrendering have faced felony charges, including rape, robbery, child abductions and murder, the newspaper reported.

The program helped law enforcement officers avoid danger in “desperate encounters,” when a fugitive meets an officer
unexpectedly, said Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Joan Synenberg.

It started in response to the death of Cleveland officer Wayne Leon, who was shot in the head when he made a traffic stop of a man wanted for a parole violation.

“It’s extremely beneficial. People have continued to show up to put their lives back together, to live without looking over their shoulders,” said Daniel Flannery, the former director of the Institute for the Study and Prevention of Violence at Kent State University and author of a coming book on the program.

Mark Wolf, who surrendered in Cleveland in September, called the program a “godsend.” He was homeless and facing a possible four years in prison on a forgery charge. His surrender instead led him to probation and drug treatment.

“This is the type of program that needs to be picked up — by someone, absolutely,” said the Rev. C. Jay Matthews of Mount Sinai Church in Cleveland, where the first surrender event was held. “It has become a safe way to handle challenging moments.”

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

Comments (13)
  1. bernard mc kernan says:

    Did anyone in their right mind think that someone who was a fugitive for a violent crime such a murder was going to turn themselves in? If so, I have some waterfront property I want to sell you in the Sahara desert.

    1. Michael says:

      Hey genius, the first sentence states “Non-Violent criminals”.

  2. Bite Me says:

    @ bernard mc kernan
    What a great comment I couldn’t think of a better one than that
    keep up with the great comments you have me rolling on the floor
    again Thanks that made my day

    oh yea it had only taken them 6 years to figure out the program was not working lol

    1. Michael says:

      Hey #2, you’re about as smart as #1. Try reading the article before commenting, Moron.

  3. Terri says:

    They should just advertise that “Operation turn yourself in” will be held everyday @ the POLICE STATION in your area. How in the Hell did this keep any officers safe??? Am I stupid or am I just missing something here. If the people who did turn themselves in, were ever stopped by the Police, I am sure they are not the ones who would shoot the cop. Just saying!

  4. Beast says:

    Did you read the first sentence? Allows fugitives of NONviolent crimes to turn themselves in. 34,000 people in 6 years, an average of 5,600 a year. That’s pretty awsome if you ask me. Sounds like you bought waterfront property in the Sahara

  5. Doug says:

    Is ” Safe Surrender”, like saying,
    Ally ally in come free,
    Yoohoo !, come out ,come out where ever you are,
    please !

  6. john gould says:

    If you do the math, it is about $44 a surrender. Sounds like the most effective program I’ve ever heard of and it let’s the Feds focus on real bad guys.

  7. j. kramer says:

    all i want to know is who made this decision and what group of bounty hunters paid him off?

  8. baltimore resident says:

    OBAMA paid em off with Middle East Money

  9. JOJO DANCER says:

    baltimore resident, why come everthing has to be about the President?

    1. KenE's lame says:

      JoJo Dancer, why come you type sentences like an uneducated louse? Must be the Baltimore Public Schools doing you a disservice… you should sue them.

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