Local News

Durham warrant office sees staff cuts

Posted May 21, 2010 7:38 p.m. EDT
Updated May 22, 2010 10:35 a.m. EDT

— Twelve staff members of a centralized office cutting down a massive backlogs of warrants in Durham city and county have become victims of budget cuts.

The county laid off eight clerks and four deputies from a squad formed last year to deal with more than 70,000 unserved warrants, some dating from the 1970s, Chief Deputy Mike Andrews, with the Durham County Sheriff's Office, said Friday.

The warrant office has served about 19,000 outstanding warrants and has about 40,000 remaining, Andrews said. Prosecutors also dismissed about 12,000 warrants that either were too old to be prosecuted or were for minor offenses.

Andrews credited the warrant office for helping bring down Durham’s crime rate.

“The Durham Police Department has done a great job,” he said. "But I also feel that our officers who have been out serving these warrants have also. By diligently looking for criminals, they have kept them ... locked up, instead of being back on the street."

The county is keeping four deputies to serve warrants, and the city's warrants will be returned to the Durham Police Department.

The warrant office's facility, which is housed in the Durham County jail, could still operate on a limited basis during business hours, Andrews said. It will no longer be open on nights and weekends.

Durham city and county each contributed $425,000 to fund the warrant office in the wake of scrutiny after two probationers with outstanding warrants were charged in the 2008 slayings of Duke University graduate student Abhijit Mahato and University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill student body president Eve Carson.

The city of Durham used economic stimulus funds to cover its share of the cost of warrant office, and those funds are not available this year. Replacement funds would have to come from the city's general fund. The warrant squad is not included in City managerThomas Bonfield's proposed budget.

Durham County Manager Mike Ruffin will present his proposed budget Monday.