PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

July 18, 2013

‘Grace period’ to handle outstanding warrants until Aug. 12

Julie Garcia
The Port Arthur News

PORT ARTHUR — There are 2,649 outstanding warrants for Class C misdemeanors in Jefferson County Precinct 7. Class C misdemeanors can range from certain types of assault to writing a hot check or leaving a child in a vehicle.

From now until Aug. 12, Mid-Jefferson County’s Constable Jeff Greenway’s Office and Justice of the Peace Brad Burnett’s Office will be working together to help people resolve their warrants through extended office hours and payment plans.

Payment plans for warrants are an always an option, but people are generally apprehensive about coming forward, said Marissa Phillips, court administrator.

“They don’t want to get arrested and are scared to drive around when they have a warrant out for their arrest,” Phillips said. “We want people to know that we’re here for them to work out payment plans — but they have to contact us so we can help them the best way we can.”

From Aug. 12 to 17, anyone with unresolved warrants could very well find a deputy with handcuffs on their doorstep, at their workplace and anywhere else they can be found — it’s Round Up Week.

It has been five years since this office has conducted a warrant roundup and Phillips said that it is beneficial to everyone.

Wednesday was the first day of the “grace period,” in which people can go into the office without fear of being arrested to work out a way to resolve their warrants.

Starting Tuesday, the office at 7933 Viterbo Road, Suite 5, in Beaumont, will be open until 6:30 p.m. to be available for those who work until 5 p.m.

“We’re allowing people some time to know that we’re serious about these warrants, and coming in August, the deputies will start looking for them. During this time, we want to help people take care of it and we don’t want anyone to go to jail,” Phillips said.

In 2012, Precinct 7 received a national award for their collection improvement program.

“In that, we decided we wanted to try to help people take care of their obligations by providing more information to them. Our theme was Communication, Information, Resolution,” Phillips said.

When people are unemployed, it becomes even more difficult to handle any financial obligations they have, Phillips said.

“I don’t know what it would be like to not have a job — it has to be hard,” she said. “When I’m out and about, I look for signs for what businesses are hiring because I want to try to help people out as much as I can.”

On Wednesday alone, the office got more than 50 calls by 2 p.m. from individuals checking about their warrant status.

Phillips said that finding offenders at their homes or places of employment is not the office’s goal, but it will do that starting Aug. 12.

“Our goal is to make people aware of what they have and to provide a way for them to come in and take care of it,” she said. “When people get to the final payment of their payment plan, we clap for them — we are so excited for them.”

Email: jgarcia@panews.com

Twitter: @julesbmt