SOUTHAVEN, MS (abc24.com) - Four days, $25,000 and a chance to double that money in the future. It's what the city of Southaven collected from "Operation Safe Surrender".
Cops gave misdemeanor offenders with outstanding warrants the opportunity to pay their fines and avoid jail. The program was so successful, other law enforcement agencies want in.
"Safe surrender really means safe," says Lt. Mark Little. In the beginning, he says some thought the program sounded too good to be true. "People were nervous and made comments like maybe it's a trick."
Turnout started slowly, but it ended on a high note. "We're roughly estimating that we took in $25,000," Little tells abc24.com.
The city could collect double that. People were required to pay at least 50 percent of their fines and set up payment plans for the rest. Out of 1200 outstanding warrants, the city dismissed almost half. "We cleared over 500 warrants." Little says people came from out of town, some traveling hours.
"We had some that rode the bus for 14 hours to come in and get this taken care of. They didn't want to let the fact that they had a warrant over their head hinder them from getting in school or a job."
He adds, it's not too late for the other 600 or so. The city still wants to work with them. "We're hoping other people who have letters will still come in."
The operation took months to plan, but cops are happy with the results. Little says other departments are even asking for the secret. "We're getting calls from other agencies in DeSoto County trying to see how it worked so they can do this."
For its part, Southaven is planning to do it again. All warrants were for traffic and criminal misdemeanors. Police are also going to update warrants weekly on their website at southaven.org.