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On The Job With An Intensive Probation/Parole Officer
by Keith Acree

HIGH POINT - For Intensive Probation/Parole Officer Robert Martin, his days on the job are never the same. He's one of 363 intensive officers who collectively supervise about 8,500 high-risk offenders living in communities across the state.

On a recent Tuesday afternoon, Martin starts his day in his office with a visit from Anthony, a probationer facing six years supervision for an assault conviction - he knocked a man's eye out in a bar fight. Martin admits it's the first office visit he's had in more than a month -- he usually meets his probationers at their homes or work places.

Martin talks with Anthony about his job, his girlfriend, and his restitution payments. He also gives Anthony the number of a local family service counselor who can talk with him about some problems at home. Martin makes notes on everything they discuss and administers a drug test before Anthony leaves. "I'll see you sometime tomorrow," he says.

A few minutes later Martin is out the door and on the way to visit another probationer at work. Fareed is serving his probation time for several worthless check convictions. He works at a local trucking terminal, loading furniture shipments onto trailers. Martin catches him during a break, so he doesn't pull him away from his work. He says Fareed is a model probationer who does a good job for his employer, is always home before his curfew and causes no trouble.

Probation Officer Robert Martin makes a curfew check
Robert Martin, Intensive Probation/Parole officer, knocks on a door for a curfew check.
A short while later, Martin leaves the truck terminal and heads downtown to the High Point police station for a meeting with the Criminal Investigation Division. High Point's probation/parole officers meet regularly with city police investigators to share information on crimes happening around the city. It's not unusual for probation officers to have a piece of information that helps police crack a case, or for police investigators to be able to help the probation/parole officers locate absconders. Probation officers even carry police radios to communicate with the High Point officers. "It's the most valuable tool I have -- even more valuable than what I carry on my side," said Martin, touching the pistol in the holster on his belt.

Martin carries a caseload of about 34 probationers, most of them violent offenders like Anthony who have been called before High Point's Violent Crimes Task Force. Every other month, some of the city's worst violent crime offenders, many of them probationers, are brought into a meeting at the police station and warned about the tough consequences for violent crime and drug activity in High Point. 

Fifteen offenders have shown up for tonight's meeting. After listening to the representatives from federal, state and local law agencies, they are introduced to representatives from a host of community agencies with programs that can help them turn their lives around. The program has proven successful at reducing violent crime in High Point and Police Chief Louis Quijas says the probation/parole officers play one of the most important roles.

By 8:15 p.m, Martin is back in the car, ready to start the night's curfew checks. The first stop is at the home of a probationer named Scooby who has just returned from IMPACT boot camp. Martin finds him in the living room watching TV with his mother. He chats with the family for a few minutes and reminds Scooby that he might come by tomorrow with his drug test.

At 8:30 Martin pulls up at the home of Tracy, who's on probation after a cocaine possession offense. He's at home as usual, tending to his pets - a giant python and two smaller snakes in a large habitat in his living room.

Fifteen minutes later, Martin raps on the door at Leroy's home, who was just paroled from Central Prison a few weeks earlier.. Leroy is making dinner in the kitchen, but stops to talk for a few minutes, before Martin heads back out the door. "It's a good night so far," Martin says as he starts the car again. "Everyone's in before curfew."

A few blocks away at 9:05 Martin checks in on Henry, a convicted auto thief, who is rousted from his bed to answer the door. They talk for a few moments before Henry heads back to bed and Martin hits the road again. He checks on Tom at his home, an offender at the women's shelter and Robert, who missed his curfew but called Martin a few hours earlier to tell him he was having car trouble. Robert is at home now and waves from the balcony. "See you tomorrow," he yells down.

PPO Robert Martin talks with one of his probationers during a curfew check
Martin talks with Leroy, one of his probationers, during a curfew check. 

The night's last stop is at a group home only a few blocks from his office to see Jamie and Bruce. Jamie tells Martin he'll be moving into a new room in the house, and Bruce updates him on his plan to fulfill his community service requirement. 

It's almost 10 p.m. when Martin pulls back into the parking lot outside his office. It's been a long night, but he'll be back to do it again tomorrow. "Some days you wonder if you're getting through to them," he says. "But I do think what we're doing here in High Point is making a big difference."

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