CUYAHOGA COUNTY, OH (WOIO) - The Cuyahoga County Prosecutors Office says the nation's first-ever Juvenile Safe Surrender Program was a success.
The four-day program concluded on Thursday, September 25.
Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court, the second oldest juvenile court in the nation, offered juveniles with outstanding warrants an opportunity to come forward and get a fresh start.
The results show that 131 young people took advantage of the program and cleared 199 outstanding warrants.
"Consistent with the larger goal of the Safe Surrender Program, we wanted to create a safe haven for young people to step out of the shadows and put their lives on a better path, and I believe we succeeded," said First Assistant Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Duane Deskins, who leads the office's Juvenile Justice Division and is director of Juvenile Crime Prevention. "This was a very successful first step, and for that I thank the many volunteers who made it happen. Their work has made our communities safer."
Juvenile Safe Surrender followed the model of the Fugitive Safe Surrender Program for adults nationwide.
Officials of the Safe Surrender Programs say that the goal of the program is to act as a tool to reduce risk involved with tracking down wanted juveniles.
The need to give fugitives an alternative became clear in 2000 when a Cleveland Police Officer, Wayne Leon, was murdered by Quisi Bryan, a parole fugitive, after a traffic violation.
Officer Leon had no idea that the man he had pulled over was a serial rapist, a fugitive who didn't want to be caught.
Officers consider searching for fugitives among their most dangerous assignments, which is why the Safe Surrender model gets bi-partisan support.
Senator Sherrod Brown describes the program as a "prime example of how law enforcement officials can work together with the local community to create a safer environment for everyone."
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine says that Safe Surrender protects "the safety of Ohio's law enforcement officers."
Stakeholders involved in this week's first-ever Juvenile Safe Surrender included Cuyahoga County Judges Kristin Sweeney, Thomas O'Malley, and Joan Synenberg, Prosecutor
McGinty , Public Defender Robert Tobik, Cuyahoga County Executive Ed Fitzgerald and Cuyahoga County Sheriff Frank Bova, as well as court administrators, defense attorneys,
probation officers, court clerks, clergy, educators, employment counselors, state motor vehicle officials and social service agencies.
The four-day program exceeded expectations.
According to Juvenile Court Administrative Judge Kristin W. Sweeney, the program cleared about 50 warrants a day —more than the court usually clears on any given day or week.
About 32 percent of the warrants were for felony offenses.
In total, the program cleared 49 felony warrants and 151 misdemeanor warrants.
Finally, family and social workers surrendered three reportedly missing teenage girls— another first.
Since its inception in 2005, more than 50 cities have implemented a Safe Surrender program.
More than 50,000 fugitives have participated in the events.
Cuyahoga County's Juvenile Safe Surrender is the first of its kind in the U.S. and has opened a new chapter in this historic and successful program.