Howard County police and the county sheriff's office are participating in a program withholding state tax refund checks of residents who have outstanding warrants.
The program between law enforcement agencies in the state and the Maryland Comptroller's Office was approved by the General Assembly in 2016, though some jurisdictions were already doing it.
This is the first year Howard County is taking part.
Officials say the sheriff's office has nearly 350 open warrants for people — mainly those who didn't appear for court cases, violated probation or committed other court violations. The county police department has more than 1,665 open bench warrants for people who failed to appear in District Court or violated probation for crimes or serious traffic offenses.
The sheriff's office began sending information to the comptroller's office weeks ago, and as of early this past week 17 residents received letters informing them their state refunds are being withheld until they clear up open warrants. Of those, five contacted the sheriff's office as of Tuesday to satisfy their requirements.
The police department also sent its open bench warrant list to the state this week.
Police Chief Gary L. Gardner said in a press release about the program that some people, including those who might have moved recently from Howard County, simply don't realize they have an open warrant. He called the program "a great way to locate people who need to clear up their records."
"Our hope is that this program will encourage people to come forward," he said.
Sheriff William J. McMahon said the program gives deputies "one more mechanism to ensure that the orders of the Circuit Court are complied with. Serving these warrants not only holds offenders accountable, it also brings closure to victims."
Officials said people who believe they may be the subject of an open warrant may contact the sheriff's office at 410-313-2150 or the police department at 410-880-3302.