Local News

Durham cutting into warrant backlog

Posted May 12, 2009 6:40 p.m. EDT
Updated May 12, 2009 7:52 p.m. EDT

— A centralized warrant system is helping Durham police and county deputies eat into a backlog of unserved warrants.

More than 60,000 warrants – some dating to the 1970s – sat unserved last year when city and county officials decided to share the cost of a combined warrant office.

"The warrants had pretty much just been stored," said Sgt.Brendan Hartigan, director of the Durham County Sheriff's Office Warrant Squad, noting more than 1,000 new warrants were added to the backlog each month.

Since the office opened five months ago, clerks have been able to enter about 10,000 outstanding warrants into a new computer system, increasing the chances they will be served in the future.

"We've served about twice as many warrants as we did last year," Hartigan said. "Improvements are made daily."

More than 1,000 of the warrants served this year in Durham County are for cases six months or older, he said. The warrant office also works closely with the Durham County Probation Office to share information about outstanding warrants for people on probation.

Adding dedicated warrant officers also has helped reduce the backlog, Hartigan said. Four  officers started last week, bringing the total working exclusively on serving warrants to seven.

The Durham County District Attorney's Office also dismissed more than 19,000 older warrants last month that were either too old to be prosecuted or were for minor offenses.

Deputy Geoffrey Middleton, one of the warrant officers, said the process is working better than ever.

"I couldn't even tell you how much of a difference. It's just huge," Middleton said.

Officers said they believe their success will help the warrant program avoid budget cuts.