Cover Story: NC Criminal checks

By Jeff Atkinson - bio | email

GASTON COUNTY, NC (WBTV) - It was the Eve Carson case.. the UNC Chapel Hill student body president murdered almost a year and a half ago that shined a light on a black hole in the state's criminal justice system.

The two men accused in her murder Demario Atwater and Lawrence Lovette had been arrested earlier for other crimes.. crimes commited while on probation.

If officers had known that when they were arrested on the earlier crimes.. then potentially their probation could have been revoked..

"This is basic information that an officer ought to be able to know."

North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper in Gaston county today touting a crime prevention program that pairs law enforcement officers with young people called "Badges for Baseball."

We talked to him about a new program Cooper and the Department of Justice rolled out this week.. that might have kept Eve Carson and other victims alive today.

The Carson case exposed a lack of information officers weren't getting when pulling someone over or making an arrest.

Up to now, law enforcement officers on their computers could find out whether someone stopped was wanted or had a criminal history.

They couldn't find out whether the arrestee was on probation or parole..

Cooper convinced the General Assembly to give him the money to be able to link probation and parole records from the Department of Corrections with his computers at Department of Justice.

"They need to give us this information. We've got to have it," says Cooper.

Could it have made a difference in the case of Patrick Burris.. the Gaffney serial killer?

Burris was on parole at the time.. and had violated the terms of his parole.

If he'd been picked up in North Carolina for anything.. now under the new system law enforcement officers would at once be alerted to his parole status.

Cooper says it's the first of its kind in the country.. and the system comes with a photo that will help police determine if the arrestee is using a fictious name.

He says, "A lot of times law enforcement officers when they stop someone they may not have a driver's license. They give them information. There will be a photo on the link that will help the officer match it up to see if it's really that person."

Critical information an arresting officer needs to have.

The inter-linking computer system will also notify the Corrections Department when a parolee has been arrested.

Cooper believes it will become a deterrent to criminals who work the system..

In times past they could commit a crime in say Mecklenburg county.. and officers here wouldn't know that the suspect's on probation in Rowan County.