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Tracking offenders in N.C. has new focus

Posted March 5, 2009
Updated March 13, 2009

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— More probation officers are on the streets, and better technology helps them find those who get in trouble again.

The state's troubled probation system is undergoing an overhaul sparked by the shooting deaths last year of Duke University graduate student Abhijit Mahato and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill senior Eve Carson.

Probation N.C. probation: A year later

Demario James Atwater, 22, and Laurence Alvin Lovette Jr, 18 – both suspects in Carson's death – were on probation at the time of the crimes. Despite repeated arrests, they face little to no consequences for that. Lovette is also charged in Mahato's death.

Records show that probation officers tried to make contact with Atwater once in more than two years. Lovette's two arrests while on probation also went undetected.

Robert Guy, then-director of the North Carolina Department of Correction's Division of Community Corrections, which oversees the probation-parole system in the state, called the Lovette oversight "flat out embarrassing."

An internal probe into what went wrong ultimately found that inadequate staffing, high turnover rates, case reassignments and lack of training led to deficiencies in the suspects' supervision.

Probation officers also had no central system for communicating with other law enforcement and judicial agencies, and no system notified them when their clients violated probation.

In August, reports obtained by WRAL News showed that management problems in probation offices in both Wake and Durham counties had been identified years earlier.

Four probation office managers were reassigned, and five others, including Guy and Department of Correction Secretary Theodis Beck retired abruptly.

Tim Moose is the acting probation director. He says the division is focused on details.

"I think any profession that deals with human behavior is complex, and none of us want to have negative outcomes," Moose said.

An alert system now notifies probation officers if someone assigned to them is arrested.

The General Assembly also allocated $2.5 million for 29 new probation officers across the state, including nine in Wake County. There is also a push to train officers to handle a variety of cases – a capability that earn them a higher starting salary.

The state is also planning to launch a new Web site with photos of the nearly 14,000 people on probation whose whereabouts are unknown. Republican state lawmakers pushed for the move as a way to help find absconders.

Guy, however, said earlier this year that new leadership won't be enough. He said better pay for officers and stricter controls on violent juvenile offenders are needed, too.

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  • mac240 Mar 6, 2009

    Why does it take the murder of a high profile person before lawmakers fix a system that everyone knows was broken when it was implemented? Its tragic what happened to Eve, but I guess the rest of us law abiding citizens are insignificant in the eyes of lawmakers.

  • gvmntcheese Mar 6, 2009

    Why is it they waited until a prominent white college girl got killed before they took it upon themselves to make changes in probation?
    It is also noteworthy to say that it is not just the probation system that is broke, but it is funny how it is being spun as if that is going to stop future prominent white college girls from getting murdered in this state..

  • larryhorse2008 Mar 6, 2009

    Can't wait to hear the plan for what they intend to do with them once they find the violators.
    G-man
    March 6, 2009 8:54 a.m.
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    good quesiton. My guess is file violations, serve warrants and then let the judge put them back on probation. you know considering it was such a success the first time they were on it.

    active time is what they should be getting.

    more active time means: more jobs for the people of north carolina either from staffing facilities or building them either way north carolina wins. more jobs, less criminals on the street.

  • larryhorse2008 Mar 6, 2009

    I saw a PO in court Wednesday that the only thing she can track is an all you can eat buffet. At 5-4 and 375 (conservatively), and her having a nose piercing and a barbell in her eyebrow, she must relate really well with the "clients"
    psychobabble
    March 6, 2009 7:58 a.m.
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    my only question is what was your fine upstanding self doing in a wake county courtroom?

  • G-man Mar 6, 2009

    Can't wait to hear the plan for what they intend to do with them once they find the violators.

  • Polar-Bear Mar 5, 2009

    so why do p.o.'s get a raise for not doing their jobs???? more money is not going to get the job done better. reward the d.o.c. ppl that DO their jobs and REPLACE the ones that do not. it's the new work incentive program..... work or get fired!!

  • james27613 Mar 5, 2009

    Why wait for a new website and the money to do it all ?

    Just post these fugitives on FACE BOOK for Free ?

  • See Chart Mar 5, 2009

    The fear of punishment does not work when you are
    dealing with a loveless predator ,we need to identify
    and treat (if possible) these psychopathic personalities
    when they are still children or adolescents before they
    do crime stemming from a loveless me want what you got attitude.
    What we are mostly trying to deal with are the after effects of
    criminal mentallity and not the early intervention of it. Short of having effective"Clockwork Orange"modifications what are we too expect from those who are mentally unbalanced that repeat their crime cause for them there is no punishment and little cure.

  • kcs Mar 5, 2009

    Records show that probation officers tried once to make contact with Atwater in more than two years. Lovette's two arrests while on probation also went undetected.

    I don’t know if I want to shake my head or scream!
    That small paragraph says it all. Who can complained about spending whatever it takes to hire well trained, highly motivated, competent people, who earn a competitive salary.... and arming them with highly sophisticated state of the art equipment? Think of the tax payer expense these two deaths alone have cost NC, not only in police dept hours, DA office hours, court appointed attorneys for the 2 defendants etc etc.....BUT in the loss of theses 2 promising young lives and all they had to offer our state...
    Tragic and infuriating don’t begin to cover it.