About 70 people queued up outside the New Metropolitan Baptist Church in the rain Wednesday morning, ready to clear their outstanding arrest warrants and move on with their lives. The Safe Surrender program runs through Saturday, with officials hoping to clear some of the 40,000 warrants in the city and county.
The first few people through that I talked with her delighted to have the issue behind them. Two women who had never met high-fived as they rode an elevator together to go get their cases expunged. Octavia Talbert, 54, was first in line and got there three hours early to get her driving with a suspended license warrant cleared. Prosecutors have said they will give "favorable consideration" to those who take advantage of the program, which is aimed at non-violent crimes but will accept those with violent warrants. Violent fugitives just shouldn't expect such an expeditious and favorable process.
The program seems like an incredible feat, logistically, with so much court staff displaced and operating out of makeshift offices.
My only gripe: the exterior was crawling with cops, and after the initial line died down, there was no "friendly" staff outside to greet fugitives. Any notion that the church would feel like a safe haven and comforting atmosphere seemed neutralized by the roadblocks and enormous police presence, which is not captured in the photo above.