BY JAMES HARPER
Operation Safe Surrender will once again take place at Greater Friendship Missionary Baptist Church in Daytona Beach, giving defendants with outstanding warrants an opportunity to turn themselves in and resolve their criminal charges.
Dr. L. Ronald Durham, pastor of the church, said the doors will be open Nov. 13 from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. for “men and women who are looking for a second chance to get their lives in order.’’
Said Durham, “This is tantamount to the mercy that is spoken of in the Bible and gives new hope to so many people who have in some cases lost hope of ever getting their life back in order.’’
State Attorney R. J. Larizza told the Daytona Times this week, “This reduces our backlog of outstanding warrants and gives the defendants the opportunity to do the right thing and resolve their respective cases.”
The first year of the program, 64 people turned themselves in. Of those, 12 did not even have a warrant. Among the remaining 52 with warrants, 47 were released on their own recognizance.
Dozens more turned themselves in the second year of the program.
Durham said this is the third year of Operation Safe Surrender and one woman who turned herself in last year is a reason he believes keeping the program going is worthwhile.
“She said to me, ‘Pastor, what you and the other ministers have done for me will never be forgotten. It has given me another chance to do the right thing, and I am so happy this program was started.’ ”
Durham anticipates the same success this year as in past, adding that “with the cooperation of all of the pastors who support this effort, we know it makes a real difference for those who take advantage of this second chance at redemption.”
Operation Safe Surrender is a cooperative effort between the Daytona Beach Police Department, Judge Bell Schumann, the State Attorney’s Office of the 7th Judicial Circuit, the Public Defender’s Office, Greater Friendship Baptist Church, and the community as a whole, according a statement on the city of Daytona Beach’s website.
“The event is an opportunity for individuals to turn themselves in for minor warrants in a safe and friendly environment. The event is staffed by community and church members with Daytona Beach Police Department officers providing procedural assistance. Many times the participants have minimal, if any, contact with officers. Legal representation will be on site for assistance with the judicial process,” according to the website.
Greater Friendship is located at 539 George Engram Blvd. in Daytona Beach.
Started by marshals
Operation Safe Surrender is modeled after a successful program pioneered by the U.S. Marshals Service in 2005. The idea is to create a safe and inviting atmosphere. Family members are welcome and officers will be in plain clothes. There are no religious requirements.
Once a warrant is cleared, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles will be onsite to assist with driver’s license and photo identification issues and needs during the event.
Operation Safe Surrender does not offer amnesty in exchange for surrender; rather, it offers a first step toward a second chance, in the form of favorable consideration from prosecutors and the court, for individuals who want to re-enter the mainstream of their communities.