Wi Editorial Staff | 8/3/2011, 11:58 a.m.

Thank You, Mayor Gray

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray celebrated Christmas in July when he delivered the news about a new ticket amnesty program. He brought joy and much needed relief to Washington area drivers who owe the District for unpaid parking tickets.

Gray announced last week that drivers that owe the District would be "let off the hook"...somewhat. Anyone who has received parking tickets, citations for moving violations, or photo enforcement tickets before Jan. 1, 2010 can pay the face value of the ticket, beginning Aug. 1 and continuing through Jan. 2012.

We would love to take credit for this great idea which is expected to add millions in revenue to the city's coffers. In an editorial that ran in the March 18, 2010 issue of the Informer, we recommended to then Mayor Fenty the idea of a parking fee amnesty. It was clear that drivers who were besieged with parking tickets were giving up their driving privileges because they could not pay the fees.

The suggestion was also made to Chairman Gray during his candidacy for mayor last summer and, surprisingly, he said he liked the idea. Show him where such a program has worked in other jurisdictions, he asked; and we did. In our Nov. 23, 2010 issue, we visited the subject again, informing our readers (and the mayor) that Chicago, Houston, DeKalb County, Ga. and Las Vegas were just a few cities that offered successful ticket amnesty programs. So why can't we?

With Gray's announcement, drivers say they believe this is one debt from which they can be rid. Many are anxious to get back behind the wheel and they see greater employment opportunities because driving again allows them to travel further to look for work.

It's a win for area drivers who want to pay off their tickets, and it's a win for the District which stands to collect $6.3 million over the next six months.

Amnesty for Felons

August is a month of forgiveness in the District with two programs that provide amnesty to individuals who have broken District laws. In addition to the ticket amnesty program recently announced by D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray, local law authorities also announced the D.C. Safe Surrender Program that allows persons with warrants to surrender voluntarily in a "safe and secure environment."

On Aug. 13, 20 and 27, District felons can turn themselves in at the Moultrie Courthouse, 500 Indiana Avenue in Northwest. According to a press release, if participants do not have an active warrant then they are free to go. If there is an active warrant, an attorney will be appointed to represent them, a hearing will be held and the warrant will be quashed.

We agree that there are those who want to correct a bad decision and that Safe Surrender allows them to find a way to fix it. The goal is to reduce the number of outstanding bench warrants for persons hiding out in neighborhoods across the District because they are afraid of being caught. The program provides many of these individuals with a way to turn themselves in, without the risk of being arrested at home, in front of their families and children, or during a routine traffic stop.

Only those who are wanted on bench warrants for a pending case, for parole or probation violations, or are wanted for traffic offenses in the District are qualified to participate. Individuals who have been charged with a violent crime, for domestic violence offences; or wanted on warrants in a juvenile matter, a child neglect or child support case are not eligible. Also restricted from participation are those wanted on warrants from Maryland, Virginia, or any other jurisdiction, or court other than the D.C. Superior Court.

The last Fugitive Safe Surrender Program was held at Bibleway Baptist Church, on New Jersey Avenue in Northwest, in 2007. Over 98 percent of the 530 people who surrendered returned home. It is a program that allows individuals to clear their records and also clear their minds, while it leaves MPD to work on more serious cases.