Budget cuts ax team effort to combat crime in Durham County
DURHAM (WTVD) -- Until recently, there was a team effort between Durham police and the sheriff's office to serve arrests warrants. Now, deep budget cuts will soon change that which leaves some to worry about a potential backlog.
It wasn't that long ago when the City of Durham and the county endured embarrassing headlines related to a serious backlog in unprocessed paper warrants. An estimated 50,000 to 70,000 thousand in boxes were holding up criminal investigations.
Public outrage convinced the two agencies to team up.
As of last month, less than 3,500 paper warrants remain. The work is nearly done, and the ABC11 I-Team has learned, so is some of the money.
"The city funding is going to stop for the county control office," said Durham City Councilman Don Moffitt. "We still have a city control. That office is staffed 24 hours a day and supports the police department."
Nearly $45,000 was cut from the budget now that most warrants are electronic.
"The backlog still exists. It's just in a virtual world at this point," said Don Ladd, with the Durham County Sheriff's Office. "If it's not actively worked, it still exists."
According to the Durham County Sheriff's Office, it all adds up to more work with fewer clerks. They say 30,000 warrants come in every year. The joint warrant control program started with a staff of nine and will now dwindle to four. Less money means more concern for some offenders with outstanding warrants.
"Our foremost goal is to get that individual back in front of a judicial official," said Ladd. "We don't want cases sitting out there for five, six, seven years to be resolved because we can't find the individual to be served."
Instead of a 24-hour operation, the sheriff's office says its warrant control center will be open just eight hours a day.
City leaders admit the funding cut wasn't easy.
"We're really pleased with the work that the county's warrant office has done," said Moffitt. "At the same time, we do have to figure out what services we can provide, where our funding goes, and make difficult choices.
Moffitt is also a member of the city-county crime cabinet, which is another joint effort between the city and the county to combat crime.
The budget cut to the county's warrant control program takes effect Oct. 1.
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