Federal authorities are kicking off a blitz to arrest some 500 people in Arizona who have disobeyed laws protecting federal land.
The people committed gruesome crimes, such as leaving litter at a campsite. Or getting drunk and disorderly on a mountaintop. Or perhaps even peeing in a park.
The feds had offered people with outstanding tickets for such misdemeanors a Safe Surrender Day on Tuesday to come clean with their offenses.
They could have visited their local federal courthouse or the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service office in Mesa to clear their records. One person showed up.
“I don’t know what (crime) he did, but he paid a $250 fine,” said Tonto National Forest spokesman Vincent Picard.
Now, those who didn’t show up can expect a knock on the door, Picard said, adding that the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and Fish & Wildlife will work in concert with the U.S. Marshals Service and U.S. Attorney’s Office in Phoenix to nab those 500 scofflaws who now have warrants out for their arrest.
While littering might seem minor and hardly worth a team of marshals to bring a scofflaw to justice, Picard said the crimes are serious, and so are the penalties.
“This isn’t just litterers,” Picard said. “It can cover a wider array of misdemeanors. Alcohol, drug possession, illegal campfires, discharging of firearms, drunken disorderly behavior, that kind of thing.”
Picard, along with U.S. attorney spokesman Wyn Hornbuckle, said the campfire violations are the most serious.
“The whole point of this program is an opportunity to take responsibility for their actions,” Hornbuckle said. “It may seem like a small matter to some, but if someone doesn’t put out a fire, it can damage homes and can even take someone’s life.”
Hornbuckle said the U.S. Attorney’s Office is behind the federal agencies 100 percent, even to the point of promising punishment of up to a $5,000 fine and six months in jail for some of the charges.
The U.S. Marshals Service could not be reached for comment.
Picard said the land management agencies will be firm on their word to crack down if no one “surrendered.”
Picard said he could not calculate how much manpower or taxpayer dollars this blitz will require.