Safe surrender event: Newark man's warrants cleared for 3rd time in 5 years

By Jonathan Lin/The Jersey Journal
on November 08, 2013

Hundreds wait in the Jersey City Armory on Friday, Nov. 8, 2013 to appear in court with "favorable consideration" for turning themselves into the state's Fugitive Safe Surrender program.Shakil Copeland, 36, is no stranger to fugitive surrender programs in New Jersey – after all, today marks the third time he'll be wiping his record clean through the program.


Copeland, who lives in Newark, said he previously turned himself into a fugitive surrender program in Newark in 2009 and on one other occasion.

The event this week at the Jersey City Armory marks the fifth time the state has offered the program, with the others having taken place in Camden, Newark, Somerset/New Brunswick and Atlantic City.

Copeland said that the second time he turned himself in, the judge overseeing his case was not aware that he was a past participant of the program.

When asked if was playing the system to his advantage, Copeland, who said he currently had 20 outstanding traffic-related warrants, asserted that "the system is against me."

"It's not fair that I get pulled over all the time," he said. "No one should get pulled over 10 times a year."

Copeland cited "profiling" as the reason why police officers pulled him over, but equivocated when asked if he felt he had been racially profiled.

"I want to stay away from the racial issue," he said, speculating that his age could be one of the reasons why he is pulled over frequently.

A total of 2,951 fugitives have turned themselves in so far, State Parole Board spokesperson Neal Buccino said. An additional surge of more than 2,000 people is expected tomorrow, a volunteer at the event said.


Copeland stressed that the fugitive surrender program was the only way he could move on with his life.

He said he waited all day for his number to be called on Thursday and got a voucher to return today, but that getting his record cleared again would be "worth it."

"This is the only way you can go in front of a judge with no money and be OK," Copeland said. "I'm unemployed, I don't have any money."


Buccino said Copeland is more the exception than the rule at these events.

"It is unfortunate to hear about an individual who may have abused the opportunity offered by Fugitive Safe Surrender to take responsibility for past offenses and begin a new life on the right side of the law," he said.

"However, such possible abuse of the system does not detract from the benefits Fugitive Safe Surrender has brought to New Jersey communities. For each individual who may have abused the system, thousands have used it as an opportunity to escape the cycle of unlawful behavior, and become contributing members of society.

"The primary purpose of Fugitive Safe Surrender is not just to change lives, but to save lives. It was created as a proactive response to the death of a police offer who was killed by a wanted fugitive. By offering the opportunity to surrender peacefully in a neutral location and work with the courts, Fugitive Safe Surrender helps protect the lives of police officers, the fugitives themselves, and their families and communities."

The fugitive surrender program will re-open one last time tomorrow at 9 a.m. and end at 4 p.m.

Those interested should report to the Evangelismos Greek Orthodox Church at 661 Montgomery St., where after processing they will be taken to the Jersey City Armory across the street.

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