GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP — A safe surrender event is coming to the township this Friday, giving those with nonviolent warrants in Atlantic and Cape May counties an opportunity to have them cleared.
“The event is a judgment-free zone,” said Jill Houck, operations division manager for the Atlantic/Cape May Vicinage. “It doesn’t matter why you have the warrant. If the warrant can be recalled, we recall it, no questions asked. We are here to help people get a fresh start.”
The event, which will be held from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 7 at Beacon Church, 420 S. Sixth Ave., will include representatives from local social service and public agencies, including the Motor Vehicle Commission, mental health and substance abuse treatment groups, as well as legal, housing and veterans assistance.
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Currently in New Jersey, there are about 2.5 million outstanding municipal court bench warrants for failure to appear in court and failure to pay fines, Houck said. They often involve minor offenses and minimal amounts.
Participants will meet with judiciary staff to identify any open court matters. While most municipal and superior court warrants will be recalled, those with outstanding matters in Galloway Municipal Court will have an opportunity to see a judge that day, according to a flyer for the event.
If a warrant cannot be recalled, participants will not be arrested, Houck said, but they will have the opportunity to safely surrender if they choose to do so.
Judiciary staff host several of these events in Atlantic and Cape May counties each year, with the most recent one held in Cape May Court House in September. At the last safe surrender event held in Atlantic City, 518 warrants were cleared, including 461 municipal court, 29 superior court and 28 child support warrants.
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For this event, free transportation will be available to and from the church at 10 a.m., noon and 2 p.m. from the Stanley Holmes Community Room, 1539 Adriatic Ave., Atlantic City; Zion Lutheran Church, 312 Philadelphia Ave., Egg Harbor City; and the Ralph Peterson Community Center at New Hope, 300 Woodland Ave., Pleasantville. Those who want to participate can also speak to a state transit police officer or Volunteers of America employee, who can help arrange for transportation, according to the flyer.
These events are designed not only to safely address outstanding warrants but to avoid consequences or incarceration and improve people’s lives, Houck said.
“It is important to address these issues in the community because it assists individuals with improving their quality of life, it decreases the risk of harm to individuals who, if their warrants are recalled, will not have to fear contact with law enforcement, and it increases the public trust with the court and law enforcement,” she said.