Anyone with outstanding warrants in Richland County can turn themselves in later this month and minimize their chances of going to jail.
The Richland County Sheriff’s Department and Columbia Police Department on Monday announced “Operation Clean Slate,” which allows anyone who’se been charged but not yet arrested by either agency to surrender. If they turn themselves in, their chances are better of not going to jail or even have the charges dropped.
“We want to start the year off giving everybody an opportunity to have a clean slate going forward in their future so they can start being more productive to the community,” Michael Baker, pastor of Greater St. Luke Baptist Church, said at a news conference.
“People know this is not a trick,” Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said of holding the event at a church instead of the law enforcement agency’s headquarters. “This is a real thing that we’re sincere about.”
Those with warrants in Richland County or Columbia may turn themselves in Jan. 20 at Greater St. Luke Baptist Church on Farrow Road, where magistrates and municipal judges will be on hand.
The event has been held for several years, but this is the first time the Columbia Police Department has participated.
“The City of Columbia looks forward to participating in this event, as it was successful in 2016,” Deputy Chief Melron Kelly said. “We felt it necessary to partner with the Sheriff's Department and Greater St. Luke church to make sure that if you did have a warrant and it was in the city, or if it was in the county, we can make sure we take care of it.”
In separate but related events, there will be an expungement workshop at the church Jan. 19 for people who have already served their time, and a job fair on Jan. 21 that will include representatives from Wal-Mart, Verizon Wireless, Stanley Steemer and Waffle House.
“What we see in most cases is that when they come in and turn themselves in, thejudges release them,” Lott said of people accused of crimes surrendering. “They come in, have a bond set on them and get to go home. It starts the process of where they don’t have to look over their shoulder anymore.”
Last year’s event held around Mothers Day saw more than 60 people turn themselves in on warrants for Richland County that ranged from fraudulent checks to violent crimes, according to Lott. Some people came in only to find out they didn’t have warrants.
“Of course, if somebody comes in and turns themself in for murder, it’s going to be handled a little different,” Lott said. “We can’t say everybody’s going to walk out.”