Law to help officers keep closer watch on criminals

Reported by Claire Simms - bio|email
Posted by Kristy Ondo - email

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - The murder of a North Carolina college student has prompted state government officials to change the way law enforcement keeps track of criminals.

Chapel Hill student body president Eve Carson died last year at the hands of two men who were out on probation, according to prosecutors. Thursday, Governor Beverly Perdue gave officers more power to keep an eye on offenders.

The new law gives probation officers more freedom to search an offender and his or her car or home--without a warrant.

"These people are ex-convicts," said Superior Court Judge Jay Hockenbury.  "They've committed crimes, most of them felonies and they could be doing the same thing right now."

Judge Hockenbury said the new law will help an understaffed department in an overburdened system. Almost 130,000 people are on probation in North Carolina.

At the same time, the state is rolling out a new database that will allow law enforcement officers to look up whether someone is on probation.

"Folks on the streets in North Carolina, whether it's a county road or a paved road, are going to have quick and easy access to probation information so that they're going to be able to better decide what they need to do to protect themselves and their communities," said Perdue during a press conference.

"The first priority of our state government should be public safety and this is a first step in that area, giving the probation officers the authority that they need to more tightly regulate and monitor the people that are on probation," said Judge Hockenbury.

This is one of several steps in Governor Perdue's plan to reform the probation system.

She is also urging the General Assembly to approve hiring more than 100 new probation officers and give current officers a raise.

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