For the past few weeks, the message heard from pulpits across Volusia County has been one of surrender.
But the 12 to 15 members of the clergy aren’t just preaching the need to give up sinful ways. The surrender they are advocating is aimed at people who have managed to avoid arrest on warrants that have been issued for them. They want them to surrender and resolve the criminal matters.
To make that happen, they are staging Operation Safe Surrender from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday at Greater Friendship Baptist Church at 539 George W. Engram Blvd., Daytona Beach.
What started as a Daytona Beach project has become a countywide event, and there are indications that wanted people from across Central Florida are going to take advantage of the opportunity, said the Rev. L. Ronald Durham, pastor at Greater Friendship.
The event is patterned after similar operations staged across the country by the U.S. Marshals Service and was proposed by Daytona Beach police Sgt. Jimmy Floyd, who has been working for more than a year to make it happen, Durham said.
It is thought to be the first time local law-enforcement authorities have had such an event in Florida, and organizers have no idea what to expect.
“I don’t know if we’re going to get one or going to get a thousand,” Durham said.
If every phone inquiry about Operation Safe Surrender means someone will show up, there will be a good turnout.
“The offenders are not calling,” Durham said. They are having someone else call to check out the details. “I don’t think we’ll be able to limit it to Volusia County,” he said. That’s because the calls are coming from as far away as Orlando and Melbourne.
The state attorney for the 7th Judicial Circuit, which includes Volusia, Flagler, Putnam and St. Johns counties, said he strongly supports the effort.
“We will be evaluating the operation for possible implementation in other counties within the 7th Circuit,” State Attorney R.J. Larizza said.
Those wanted for nonviolent crimes will be able to surrender at the church, appear before a judge by closed-circuit television and be released.
Some offenders facing charges for violent crimes and serious felonies may not get to go home, but prosecutors and judges may go lighter on them because they surrendered, Durham said. A bail bondsmen will be standing by to help those who need to post bail, he said.
Although his church took the lead, the response from other churches on both the west and east sides of Volusia County has been tremendous, he said. Both predominantly African-American and predominantly white churches, all representing a wide range of faiths, are participating, he said. Members of the various churches are volunteering to work at the event, Durham said.
Pastors in Volusia say it’s time for offenders to surrender
Durham, who said he and other pastors will be on hand to provide encouragement for those who show up, isn’t sure his sermons reached those who need to surrender. But there is a good chance their mothers and grandmothers were sitting in the congregation, and they are the ones who can make the right thing happen, he said…source orlando sentinel.com