Fugitives soon will have another chance to wipe their slates clean in a program that cancels arrest warrants for many. Organizers also will offer services to help offenders better their lives.

The Fugitive Safe Surrender alternative was offered in 2005, and 838 people turned themselves in.


This time the program runs from Wednesday, Sept. 22, through Saturday, Sept. 25, at Mount Zion Church in Oakwood. Those who appear can expect to receive favorable consideration when being judged for their offenses, organizers said.

U.S. Marshal Peter Elliott said the program is a way to get fugitives off the street and to prevent deadly confrontations. The first one nationwide was held here. Since then, more than 27,000 fugitives have walked in at similar surrenders in 18 cities across the country.

Elliott said he got the idea after Cleveland police officer Wayne Leon was killed by a desperate fugitive during a routine traffic stop in 2000.

Grace Leon, the slain officer’s wife, said her husband “enjoyed being a policeman. He really thought he was making a difference. What a wonderful way for him to continue doing that.”

The surrender program will turn Mount Zion into a pseudo-courthouse.

Fugitives will have their cases and criminal records reviewed by sheriff’s personnel, prosecutors, judges, public defenders and clerk of courts employees, Elliott said.

After fines are paid, warrants are often canceled, and the offenders can be on their way. Others charged with more-serious crimes may have their bonds reset and a court date scheduled, Elliott said. Less than 1 percent are arrested on the spot.

Anyone wanted by the law in Cuyahoga County can turn himself in, Elliott said. While the first program was staffed only by Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court representatives, this year staff members from many municipal courts will be at the church.

The social-services element was added to help rehabilitate the fugitives, said County Common Pleas Judge Joan Synenberg. She said dangers that lead to criminal behavior must be addressed

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Article courtesy cleveland.com

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