BY ANDREAS BUTLER
The Daytona Black Clergy Alliance and the Daytona Beach Police Department wants local residents to take advantage of Operation Safe Surrender.
The event will take place at Master’s Domain Church of God in Christ on April 12 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. The church is located at 511 Freemont Ave.
The Daytona Beach event is designed to give people with outstanding warrants a chance to clear up the issue. It is open to residents living in Volusia County.
“It’s another way for us to give an opportunity for our people, especially in our community a chance to work out warrants, driver license, identity issues and others. We want to make sure that we avoid police conflicts and get our people back to being productive citizens again,” said Derrick Harris, president of the Black Clergy Alliance and pastor of Master’s Domain.
Noted Daytona Beach Police Chief Mike Chitwood, “There are thousands of warrants for minor offenses like driver license suspension, child support, drug possession, open container and theft.
People often run from the law, which puts the community, you, them and officers in danger. This leads to arrests and jail time. People often lose jobs which really affects lives.
‘Get squared away’
A pre-event was held on April 5 at Master’s Domain for the April 12 event.
“It was designed for people to be able to ask questions leading up to the Safe Surrender, to prepare them,” commented Harris.
Operation Safe Surrender will have representatives from the state attorney’s and public defender’s offices and other judicial agencies as well as the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.
Operation Safe Surrender also will assist with issues pertaining to driver’s license or identification card renewals or replacements, name or address changes, vehicle registration renewal and purchase of specialty license plates.
“Often after speaking to a judge, something is worked out, whether it’s a payment plan, community service or probation,” added Chitwood.
Authorities also say chances of being arrested are about slim to none.
“Most likely, no arrests will be made at any of these events,” stated Harris.
“Come in and get squared away. The cops don’t really do much there but we are there mainly for a support role,” echoed Chitwood.
Operation Safe Surrender began in 2011 and ran through 2013. The program is a carbon copy of a service created by the U.S. Marshals office in 2005.
“We started this with Rev. L. Ronald Durham when he was pastor at Greater Friendship Baptist Church. We went to him and he jumped on board. The first two years were greatly successful and highly publicized. The third year wasn’t so great. I think everyone got lazy with the success,” Chitwood explained.
“Pastor Harris asked us to bring this back and we agreed. This is not an easy thing to do. It takes law enforcement, the clerk of court, judges, public defender, state attorney and even the IT offices clearing schedules,” he remarked.
During the first three years of the event, 130 people surrendered with seven being arrested.
“The only reason those seven went to jail were because they were violent offenders. Also, there family members brought them in because they were tired of them having to run and felt good doing it in the safety of the church,” Chitwood added.
The Black Clergy Alliance said the community can expect more outreach from the organization.
“We want to be more proactive. We are putting in place initiatives and other programs to do things to better our community,” stated Harris.
Chitwood also emphasizes cooperation and partnerships within the community.
“I’ve been blessed my 10 years here. I’ve been able to work with both the Black Clergy Alliance and NAACP. No matter your skin color, everybody wants public safety and fair treatment. Nobody wants drugs, crime and violence in their neighborhoods. On the flipside, there are people who make mistakes and are scared to deal with the system because they don’t believe they will get a fair shake,” responded Chitwood.
The Black Clergy Alliance is planning Operation Teen 200 this summer. The plan is to get 200 teens off the street and teach them etiquette, social skills, job training, and more.
“We want to team with other organizations who already provide such services like sports, dance, mentoring, cheering, and others. We also hope to work with schools for when kids get suspended they can be handed over to the church for a constructive atmosphere,” added Harris.