It’s pretty simple, really: If you want to beat the rap for a public urination ticket (or a ticket for pot possession, littering, spitting, or riding a bicycle on a sidewalk) all you have to do is wait for the right day and show up at a Brooklyn church for Safe Surrender, a semi-regular event put on by the Kings County District Attorney’s office.
It worked for Andre Jenkins.
Jenkins, a Parks Department employee, was caught taking a leak in an abandoned parking lot after his two-hour train ride home from work. He told the Post, “I had to go real bad. I thought it was a safe spot–but a cop showed up out of nowhere. It was like he fell out of the sky.”
His was one of about 170 citations dismissed at Safe Surrender on Friday. The fine, had Jenkins been forced to pay, would have been about $50.
Anyone with a court summons or a warrant out for their arrest can come to Safe Surrender and resolve their legal issues without the threat of arrest. It’s only intended for minor misdemeanors, though–if you’re facing more serious charges you’re actively discouraged from showing up.
District Attorney Charles Hynes launched the program in 2009 with help from the Brooklyn clergy. The idea was simple: It would give low-level offenders a second chance, and free Hynes’s office to go after serious criminals. More than 2,000 people have taken advantage of the opportunity to wipe their records clean since the program’s inception.
The last Safe Surrender was held Friday and Saturday at St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church in East Flatbush. Most participants, according to a survey taken by organizers, were African-American males from Brownsville, Bed Stuy, or Crown Heights, and 99 percent of them had their warrants or summons resolved.
The D.A. gets help at the events from New York State Office of Court, NYPD, and Legal Aid to resolve a wide range of offenses: possession of marijuana, underage possession of alcohol, unlawful possession of handcuffs, littering, spitting, riding a bicycle on a sidewalk, trespassing, loitering, disorderly conduct, noise complaints, unleashed dog, failure to have a dog license, animal nuisance, unlawfully in the park after closing, and failure to comply with posted signs in the park, among others.
The next Safe Surrender event is scheduled to take place September 6 at the Church of the Open Door in downtown Brooklyn.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on August 19, 2013