Local News

Durham probation office had troubles before

Posted April 16, 2008 5:42 p.m. EDT
Updated May 5, 2008 9:20 p.m. EDT

— 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.