Local News

Durham probation office re-examining cases

Posted October 8, 2008 7:14 p.m. EDT
Updated October 8, 2008 11:17 p.m. EDT

— Twenty percent of offenders on probation in Durham County are unaccounted for, and probation officials there say they are in the process of re-examining cases in an effort to better track offenders.

"It is a large number. It is well above the average, and we're hoping to work on that," said Tony Taylor, one of the new assistant managers in the Durham office. "We are starting from zero and trying to review everything."

Taylor says his officers and local law enforcement agencies are out every day trying to find absconders in an effort to get that number down.

"But we're also trying to figure out how the numbers are growing so that we can pull them back in," he said.

Durham County handles a little more than 4,000 probation cases, and Durham leaders say they don't want the problem to be overlooked any longer.

"It's broken. We're drowning over here, and Wake County is not doing that much better," Durham City Councilman Eugene Brown said.

Issues with how offenders are tracked in both counties were exposed in the wake of the shooting deaths of Duke University graduate student Abhijit Mahato and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill senior Eve Carson.

Suspects in both of those cases were on probation when the crimes occurred, and internal reviews of their probation records showed each had been overlooked by probation officers in Wake and Durham counties.

Further examination into both counties found years of mismanagement and poorly tracked offenders.

For Brown, the issue now is resources, and he thinks $2.5 million allotted from the state budget to improve staffing, tracking and operations is not enough.

State Department of Correction officials want approximately $1.7 million to go toward additional probation officers and the rest toward mentoring programs, additional software and training to improve employees' efficiency. State lawmakers will meet again Oct. 21 to decide how to spend the funding.

Statewide, there are about 117,000 probation cases. In Wake County, 13.5 percent of the 7,400 offenders, or approximately 1,000 people, who are on probation are unaccounted for.