“It’s like a Christmas present,” said Tanicsha Birts, as she left Friday’s Safe Surrender event with a weight lifted in the form of three warrants.
Now, the Pleasantville woman has no worries that a traffic ticket or other minor complaints from her past will come back to hurt her.
About 250 people attended “A Fresh Start” Friday, getting their warrants cleared and put on payment plans.
“This is beautiful,” said Perry Mays, president of the Coalition for a Safe Community, which hosted the event along with the court system.
As they came in, attendants were given a numbered ticket and waited to be called. Then, they would sit with an intake person who would look up their warrants and direct them where to go next.
Some would wind up at the child support table. Some would head to one of three judges set up in another room inside Galloway Township’s Beacon Church. Anyone with a warrant out of Galloway Municipal Court would be led there — not far from the church.
Most left with new court dates, or orders that would restore their driver’s license. But all seemed to leave with a smile, said Doreen Normant, a courthouse worker who helped handled those coming in.
“For us it’s about helping people get out of a problem they don’t understand,” said Absecon Municipal Court Judge John Rosenberger. “And by sticking their head in the sand, it got worse.”
There were no judgments. No questions as to why a court date was missed or fine not paid.
Instead, it was about getting everyone back on track.
“He asked me how much a month,” Birts said of Judge Louis Belasco, who cleared her warrants. “I said $50. He said, ‘How about $25?'”
One of her fines was erased and the other two reduced by a total of $300.
If the payment plan isn’t affordable, the person will just wind up falling behind again and being in the same predicament, Rosenberger pointed out.
The oldest case Absecon Court Administrator Merrilee Carlson recalled was one from 1997, by a person who traveled from North Carolina. There were two people they saw from that state.
“We’re not really looking at the age of it,” Rosenberger said. “We’re not taking any type of judgmental attitude.”