More than six dozen people with outstanding warrants turned themselves in without fear of arrest Saturday in Hempstead Village's first Project Safe Surrender.
Village Court Justice Tanya Hobson-Williams hosted the five-hour event at The Calvary Tabernacle Church. It co-sponsored the event that drew in 75 people, mostly village residents, seeking to have warrants vacated.
"We did this because it is a great alternative for people to redeem themselves and gives them an opportunity to get a fresh start," church Pastor Barrington Goldson said.
The project, which is scheduled for a second day next Saturday at the church, is meant to let the roughly 8,000 people with Hempstead Village-issued warrants surrender with minimal contact with law enforcement, and have their warrants lifted and their cases adjudicated in a safe environment. Legal Aid Society attorneys served as counsel to the accused offenders.
"People feel more comfortable and know they won't be arrested when they come in," said Hobson-Williams, adding she got the idea from an event held last year in Brooklyn. "This is more informal and personal."
Michael Harrison, 40, of Hempstead, said he had his warrant vacated, his misdemeanor charge dismissed and his four outstanding traffic tickets resolved. Harrison needs to appear in village court on Wednesday to complete his plea deal with a village prosecutor and arrange to pay $375 in fines.
"I ended up forgetting, and it was catching up," said Harrison, adding his traffic violations dated as far back as 1996. "This made it easier to come in. It is comfortable."
Only warrants from the village were handled. In addition to traffic summonses, they included disorderly conduct, trespassing and drinking in public.
"Having the warrant vacated makes life easier," said Vera Davis, 58, of Hempstead. She said she wasn't aware she had faced a disorderly conduct charge after she exchanged words with a village police officer in June. "You don't have to worry or wonder about it anymore . . . I am too old to be having a warrant."