Holding tax refunds for open warrants proving successful

ANNAPOLIS, Md. - On Friday morning, a sheriff's deputy for Anne Arundel County went out and picked up a man wanted for burglary and other charges.  It took a few hours to find him and drive him back to the District Courthouse.

The traditional process to close warrants is becoming more efficient in the county.

"Greed is a strong motivator to get people to do things, whether it's to commit a crime or if it's now to turn themselves in," said Sheriff Ron Bateman.    

Bateman pushed to do a pilot program, tying tax refunds to outstanding warrants.  A bill became law a few years ago, and now there's a full year of proof.

The sheriff says he sent out 446 letters to people with outstanding warrants; 345 turned themselves in.  So in 77 percent of the cases, the criminals came to them, clearing even serious cases.

"Robbery, escapes, serious theft, drug distribution, felony assaults," said Sheriff Bateman.    

The program is considered so successful, Sheriff Bateman is pushing for a statewide plan.  It wouldn't be mandatory for counties, but it would give sheriffs the option of withholding tax refunds.

"They could technically be held at the detention center and have a check waiting for them when they get home," said Sheriff Bateman.    

When a criminal is motivated by money, sheriff's deputies don't have to make that cold knock at the door.

"That person inside does not know what that warrant is for.  They may have committed other crimes that are more serious in nature, so we are now on their turf.  They know where their weapons are.  They have concealed things," said Sheriff Bateman. 

Anne Arundel County got a five-year extension on the program.  Along with the statewide plan, there's a bill that would allow Baltimore City to hold tax refunds.  It has moved out of the House.  It will be heard in the Senate on Monday.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake says the program would help clear 42,000 open warrants in the city. 


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