2-Day Project Helps Dismiss, Reduce Minor Offenses

Sunday, Apr 24, 2011  |  Updated 9:15 AM EDT
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Landon Lawson wanted to get two tickets cleared. He said the tickets, for minor infractions, are "unfair."

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Safe Surrender Helps People Settle Minor Offenses

Landon Lawson says his tickets were "unfair." He wants the violations -- for walking through a park after dusk -- dropped.
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New York City residents charged with relatively minor offenses, like loitering, littering and spitting, have a chance to turn themselves in to church and law enforcement officials and have their cases adjudicated in a safe environment.

The project, called Project Safe Surrender, helps people accused of Class C summonses settle with the city. Many of those seeking help don't have the money or time to hire a lawyer or pay the ticket.
 
Over two days, hundreds of people turned up at Antioch Baptist Church in Bedford-Stuyvesant to have their cases heard. 
 
Rev. Joseph Jones of the Kings County Attorney's Office and Greater Zion Shiloh Baptist Church says the program was adopted about four years ago. 
 
People come to court in church to have a warrant vacated and case dismissed. They often don't pay a fine, Jones said.
 
Ladon Lawson said he was "hoping to get my tickets cleared today." He explained that he got two tickets for walking through the park after dusk -- but he says he was walking through the park because he felt safer and was avoiding "problems in my neighborhood."
 
Lawyers from the Metropolitan Black Bar Association and Brooklyn Legal Aid represent residents and attorneys walk the line outside, asking questions to weed out those who might be facing a felony and might not want their name run through a police database.

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