Local News

Durham probation office had troubles before

Posted April 16, 2008
Updated May 5, 2008

— A report eight years ago showed Durham County's probation office failed to re-arrest people who committed serious crimes or to notify supervisors when serious offenders missed appointments.

According to a May 2000 article in The News & Observer, a state audit showed management problems that included falsifying records and at least two probation cases that went unsupervised for as long as five years.

Supervisors were disciplined, officers resigned, and the office was restructured.

But local leaders now question whether that was enough in the wake of recent concerns stemming from the shooting deaths of two local college students.

"It certainly raises a question that they weren't fixed to the level that they needed to be," said Ellen Reckhow, chairwoman of the Durham County Board of Commissioners.

Reckhow says fixing probation is now one of the county's top priorities.

Superior Court Judge Abraham Jones sees probation offices in busy counties like Wake and Durham crumbling under overwhelming caseloads.

"It shouldn't fall through the cracks," Jones said. "The bottom line, once again, would be that that if they need help, we need to get them more help."

State probation officials admit Wake and Durham probation offices failed to properly track Laurence Alvin Lovette Jr., 17, and Demario James Atwater, 21, before they were arrested last month in the slaying of Eve Carson in Chapel Hill – and Lovette for the death of Abhijit Mahato.

Both offices are under investigation, and earlier this week, the Department of Correction asked the National Institute of Corrections, for assistance on managing offices in urban areas.

But state Attorney General Roy Cooper believes the department statewide might need a closer look, as well.

"It makes me angry and frustrated to see the probation system break down," he said. "I think we have to look at it across the state. Clearly, the system needs to be fixed."

DOC spokesman Keith Acree said the department is committed to fixing the problems.

"These are complex issues, but we are determined to work with lawmakers, other criminal justice agencies and the communities to solve them," he said.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • MrMan Apr 17, 2008

    It will just be another headline in a couple of months, all everyone wants is instant gratification when there is a problem we need to fix the problem, in Durham it starts and ends at the Mayor's office Bell is nothing more than a political puppet. IMPEACH BILL BELL

  • ratherbnnc Apr 17, 2008

    This is totally ridiculous, especially when you consider that at least two brutal murders of innocent people could have been prevented. The victims have no say in this. What a stinking mess.

    And you people want to complain about a probation system that needs to be fixed! sure, it needs to be fixed, always has! But, what makes you so sure those two people wouldnt have gotten killed if they were not on probation! It seems to me all of you people are looking for the system to blame instead of the individuals who actually committed the murders.

  • casp3r Apr 17, 2008

    Can not wait till these people run our healthcare.. No one runs a business like the government.

  • bossman63076 Apr 17, 2008

    Sounds like the majority of probation officers need to be reassigned to Durham and Rocky Mount to keep up with the rising crime rates. Has anyone looked at the simularities between these two cities. Here's a hint 70% minorities.

  • MarcoPolo Apr 16, 2008

    Durham's new motto- "a stinking mess"

  • MarcoPolo Apr 16, 2008

    Durham has a whole lot more trouble than just the Probation office. It needs to concentrate on those yahoo police officers shooting up every latino in town and can you say LAX. Go team....sue the heck out of Durham. It's the only way things will change. That town will bankrupt itself with that lawsuit. It has already lost all moral authority with the gangs, the killings, the corrupt gov't officials, etc.

  • NC_VET Apr 16, 2008

    And this is a surprise for Durham? Not Really! Crime in Durham
    is growing daily.

  • gnew46 Apr 16, 2008

    This is totally ridiculous, especially when you consider that at least two brutal murders of innocent people could have been prevented. The victims have no say in this. What a stinking mess.

  • scorekeep Apr 16, 2008

    This system has failed so many people. I am not talking about the ones who are on probation, it's every victim and every victim's survivors. A civil class action lawsuit needs to be brought forth. The victim's of these offenders have had thier civil rights, the right to live without fear, violated because of laziness, sorriness and a general feeling of "I don't care" throught the probation dept. Don't give us this "heavy caseload" excuse. If you take a job and someone is paying you, (including taxpayers) you bust your rear end to get the job done. Eight years ago?? It has been going on atleast that long?!? Totally 100% asinine.