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Wake sheriff: More communication needed on probation cases

Donnie Harrison calls for better communication among the parts of the law enforcement system, including the probation system and the courts.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Police agencies, probation officials and the courts could and should find ways for them and their computer systems to communicate better to help avoid situations like those of the men accused of killing a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill student, the Wake County sheriff said Thursday.

"The court computers, the magistrate computers, probation-parole computers – a lot of those just don't marry," Sheriff Donnie Harrison said, and it creates gaps through which cases can fall.

An internal investigation of the state parole system's oversight of the two men charged in the killing of UNC senior Eve Carson pointed to problems – among them: staffing, training and communication.

That has Harrison calling for action.

Although law enforcement authorities and probation system officials say there is no guarantee the crimes would not have been committed, closer supervision of Demario James Atwater and Laurence Alvin Lovette Jr. might have detected problems with their cases sooner.

Atwater is charged with murder in Carson's shooting death. Lovette is charged with murder in her killing in Chapel Hill and that of Duke University graduate student Abhijit Mahato in Durham. Atwater and Lovette were each on probation when the killings happened.

Part of the problem, Harrison says, is a communication gap: Probation officers get no alert if a person they are supervising is arrested, and police aren't alerted if someone they arrest is on probation.

Harrison says computer systems are not synchronized, and most probation and law enforcement offices don't know what others are doing.

"It's never going to be an ideal situation, as long as you have different departments, until you get some computers talking to each other," he said.

Harrison and the state Division of Community Corrections, which oversees probation, have already met to talk about what can be done.

"Are there some things that we can do to help them better manage what they're doing?" Harrison asked. "They have a workload. There's no question about it, they have a workload."