This issue is not going to sit well with many people who are still recovering from the Eve Carson murder tragedy. It’s a no-brainer really, the longer these people are on the street the greater the potenial for more crime. Butner has it’s share of Durham’s problem overflow ie., absconder’s from probation/parole supervision.

Warrant backlog due to foot-dragging?

By Ray Gronberg : The Herald-Sun

DURHAM — Foot-dragging by the city and county managers has kept their governments from organizing an attempt to reduce a massive backlog of arrest warrants, Chief District Judge Elaine Bushfan told elected officials Tuesday.The issue “has been placed before [City Manager Patrick Baker and County Manager Mike Ruffin] several times” in the past few years, Bushfan told a group of City Council members and county commissioners.
But the managers haven’t been able to cobble together a plan, and it’ll take intervention by elected officials to make them, she said.

Ruffin and Baker have proven to have “an inability to go beyond their current conversation,” Bushfan said. “At some point it’s going to be crucial to push the buttons we need to push.”

Bushfan’s comments, made to the Joint City/County Committee, touched off an exchange between Ruffin and Baker that made it clear they don’t see eye-to-eye on whether the Durham County Sheriff’s Office or the Durham Police Department should shoulder more of the burden of taking on the estimated 50,000-warrant backlog.

Ruffin said the bulk of the warrants come from the city, and added that it looks to him that while the Sheriff’s Office is “in the warrant-serving business,” city police are not.

Baker responded that Ruffin’s claim about police “was just not accurate,” though officials can debate whether the city department should be doing more.

He added that there was no need for finger-pointing. Minutes later, he walked out of the meeting.

Elected officials agreed to try hammering out a plan by mid-May to address the backlog. One also rebuked the managers.

“I’ve heard the two administrations lob volleys at each other across Main Street, and, with all due respect to the managers around the table, it’s time for that stuff to end,” City Councilman Mike Woodard said. “We’ve got to get along and we’ve got to work this out.”

Officials have been giving Durham’s criminal-justice system more than the usual amount of scrutiny in the wake of a series of homicides allegedly committed by repeat offenders who were on probation at the time of the slayings.

The trouble began after the deaths of Duke University graduate student Abhijit Mahato and UNC Chapel Hill Student Body President Eve Carson. It intensified following the March 30 death of 18-year-old Northern High School student Skye Lee.

Lee’s death sparked Tuesday’s discussion, thanks to an erroneous report that probation officers had issued an unserved arrest warrant for the man accused of killing her, Cory A. Jiggetts, 19.

The state in fact had been preparing to charge Jiggetts with a probation violation, but hadn’t yet issued a warrant, N.C. Department of Correction spokesman Keith Acree said.

But County Commissioner Ellen Reckow distributed copies of the initial report to fellow officials, and said Tuesday that it “brought to mind” previous discussions about unserved warrants.

The sheer volume of criminal cases in the area contributes to the backlog. According to the city’s figures, Durham police served an average of 653 arrest warrants a month in 2007. But they received almost twice that many, an average of 1,212 a month.

Warrants come from many sources.

Police and sheriff’s deputies swear out some while they’re working cases. Other law enforcement agencies in the county and the surrounding area do likewise. Judges issue some warrants when suspects fail to appear in court. And the public can go to a magistrate and swear out warrants themselves.

Police Chief Jose Lopez said Tuesday that Durham police “normally serve as quickly as possible” the warrants they generate in-house, and then “work very hard” to keep up with the load that comes from magistrates.

Baker — who said he left Tuesday’s meeting partly to confer with Lopez and Deputy Police Chief Ron Hodge, and partly also because he was “frustrated” by Ruffin’s comments — conceded in an interview that Bushfan had a point.

Officials believe an estimated 37,000 warrants stem from low-level misdemeanor cases that are more than 5 years old. They’d agreed last spring to purge such cases from the system, Baker said.

But the plan fell through last summer following the disbarment of former District Attorney Mike Nifong and the death of former Chief Magistrate Chet Dobies, Baker said.

Baker admitted that he’d never followed up with interim district attorneys Jim Hardin and David Saacks to inform them Nifong had been working with officials on the plan.

“It is something we need to finish,” Baker said. “We’ve had starts and stops, starts and stops.”