If you were cited for a misdemeanor while on a public land, but you haven’t paid the price for it, here’s your chance. On May 1, federal land authorities will open up offices and courthouses across the state so that violators can pay their fines and clear their records.
In Mesa, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service office will be open, as will the Federal Courthouse in Phoenix.
Officials said they’ll apply the leniency policy, known to benefit defendants who plead guilty. That means some participants will get to pay reduced fines, said Daniel Knauss, United States Attorney for Arizona.
But it’s a one-shot deal. After May 1, authorities said they’ll begin a period of heightened enforcement.
Knauss said 11,360 tickets and 459 arrest warrants were issued last year for crimes committed on public lands in Arizona, including misuse of fire, littering and motor vehicle or gun use in prohibited areas. Fine collections should have amounted to $2.1 million, he said, but only $1.2 million was actually received. Safe Surrender will help close that gap.
But the focus isn’t just on money. U.S. Marshal David Gonzalez said clearing warrants makes the community safer, because it reduces the number of fugitives that officers have to hunt down in high-speed chases. Fewer warrants means fewer weapon-involved face-offs with nervous fugitives, he said.
Federal public lands span the state. Larry Heady, United States Forest Service patrol captain for Central Arizona, said Tonto National Forest, for instance, covers three million acres. The Bureau of Land Management manages 12.2 million acres of the state’s land, including 11 wilderness areas and 2 national monuments.
“People who trash these lands or endanger them by starting dangerous fires should be held accountable for their actions,” said John Young, a law enforcement officer for the Bureau of Land Management.
Safe Surrender Day is the result of a joint effort between the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Marshal Service.
The program follows Fugitive Safe Surrender, a four-day interagency push to resolve felony warrants in Maricopa County. Some 1,330 fugitives took advantage of the opportunity at Phoenix’s Pilgrims Rest Baptist Church in November.
In person: On May 1, visit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office, 2450 W. Broadway Road, in Mesa or one of Arizona’s three Federal Courthouses in Phoenix, Flagstaff or Tucson
Mail: Central Violations Bureau, P.O. Box 780549, San Antonio, TX 78278
Call: (800) 827-2982