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Many Suspects In Durham Committing Crimes While Out On Bond

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DURHAM, N.C. — Violent crime is always at the top of the list when talking about concerns of Durham residents and city leaders. The city's police chief said Durham's crime numbers could probably improve if some of the city's main criminals could just stay behind bars.

Breon Beatty was arrested for murder in October 2005. He was charged this weekend with two new crimes.

"We're dealing with the same people over and over," said Police Chief Steve Chalmers.

Chalmers said he is frustrated with suspects who commit more crimes while out on bond. He blames low bonds and lengthy waits for cases to go to trial for the revolving door at the county jail.

In Beatty's case, a magistrate ordered him held without bond. Shortly after his arrest, his attorney was able to have his bond set at $250,000. Four months later, a judge reduced the bond to $175,000. Four months after that, it was slashed to $25,000 and Beatty was back on the streets.

Roy Bodden is charged in a 2004 murder case. While he is out on bond, he has been arrested at least six times for drug and weapons charges.

Superior Court Judge Kenneth Titus said bond reductions are decided on an individual basis.

"There's a strength of case issue. It may be the person is cooperating in the prosecution of other cases. It may simply be the length of time awaiting trial," he said.

Titus also points out there are constitutional issues.

"First, there's a constitutional guarantee of presumption of innocence so even though they have been arrested, there is a presumption of innocence," he said. "Second, bond is simply to assure the person will appear at trial. It's not to punish anybody."

In recent years, police started flagging warrants to alert magistrates of dangerous repeat offenders. Also, a new judge's position is being added to the city. Many hope that will also help the case backlog and get the suspects to trial more quickly.