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Durham funds program to catch up on unserved warrants

Posted November 6, 2008
Updated November 7, 2008

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— The City Council voted Thursday to fund a joint program with Durham County to reduce a growing backlog of unserved arrest warrants.

More than 60,000 warrants dating to 1977 haven't been served because officers and deputies can't locate the people involved, authorities said.

"When you go to the houses, you really try to talk to people and find out where (suspects) live, and a lot of times, they don't live there, or it is family members and they aren't willing to give them up," said Cpl. J.P. Carden, a warrant officer with the Durham County Sheriff's Office.

The stack of unserved warrants grows by about 900 each month, said Chief Deputy Mike Andrews.

"Over a period of a year, you are looking at 10,000 (to) 11,000 warrants (not served), and in 10 years, you are looking at 100,000," Andrews said.

By comparison, Cumberland County had more than 6,500 unserved warrants last year and has more than 4,800 so far this year.

The deaths of Duke University graduate student Abhijit Mahato and University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill student body president Eve Carson prompted Durham officials to look at changing the warrant-service process.

The suspects in both cases were on probation at the time of the slayings and had outstanding warrants that hadn't been served.

"We're just trying to shore up any loose ends that we may have," Andrews said.

Officials decided to create a central warrant office, with the city and county splitting the $485,000 cost. The office will include a common computer system that police, deputies, magistrates and court clerks can access, and eight more people have been hired – four deputies and four clerks – to serve and process warrants.

In addition to the new office, the Durham County District Attorney David Saacks said his prosecutors are trying to cut down on some of the backlog by dismissing some warrants for minor offenses, such as worthless checks, that are at least five years old.

Andrews said it's still important to follow through on all crimes.

"It's just another way of trying to do our job and do it more effectively and let the public know that we are out here attentively looking for those people," he said.


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  • Atnor Nov 7, 2008

    ya know... if the proposed food tax that got voted down this week went for something like this, instead of things like funding minor league baseball museums, I might have re-considered supporting it. I would much rather they spend money on things that are needed first :)

  • godshelper Nov 7, 2008

    Put there names in a data base so that the general public can see them and they will tell you where they are located. It is not like it is private or anything, you can go sit in a courtroom and listen to cases all day long and hear people being called for warrants. let the community and tax payers who know so much about the law help do something once in a while besides criticize law enforcement. I know that when i work it is har to serve more than 2 warrants in 12 hours because every criminal has moved and people don't want to give up there family and friends to the law. I also agree with bringing in bounty hunters and giving them commision on each warrant served as a means of serving them. You are killing the civil service unit in the law enforcemnt area help them out. when a cop serves a warrant for not going to court, don't give him a written promise to appear, seriously thats stupid people, he/she didn't go to court the first time what makes you think they will go this time????

  • A confused citizen Nov 6, 2008

    An interesting follow-up to this article would be to determine how many deputies are diverted from serving criminal warrants to serve civil process papers. North Carolina currently requires most civil process papers, i.e. when one person sues another or paternity papers, etc., to be served by the Sheriff. It has been source of income for many departments but also a drain on manpower and resources. If the counties in the state can not keep up with serving criminal warrants, it would only be logical to let private process servers take care of the civil papers. This would allow the departments to redirect their resources to criminal matters.