Sullivan County

Sullivan County faces backlog of 7,000 warrants

SULLIVAN COUNTY, Tenn. - Thousands of arrests have yet to be made in Sullivan County, Tennessee. We've learned the sheriff's department has a massive backlog of warrants and getting them served may be tougher than you might think.

Every day is a busy day for Officer Charlie Jones who serves court papers for the Sullivan County Sheriff's Office.

"Typically, it's over 20 a day that we attempt," Jones told News 5.

Lt. Kyle Carter, over the process and courts division, said those numbers are constantly on the rise, as there's been an eight percent increase in the last year of court papers and warrants for deputies to serve.

That means they're backing up fast.

We learned the sheriff's department has a backlog of about 7,000 outstanding arrest warrants and 800 civil papers.

On top of the thousands of warrants that have yet to be served, the sheriff's department receives an average of 90 criminal and civil new warrants and papers a day.

But we learned getting them served is easier said than done.

"It all just boils down to manpower hours," said Lt. Carter.

To arrest someone, we learned two officers must team up together, and they have to have the time to do it.

"They obviously are constantly receiving calls for service. A lot of stuff's in progress, [and] a lot of it's a later report," Lt. Carter said.

Then, you actually have to locate defendants, which I learned is not always easy to do whether arrest warrants or civil papers are being served. Addresses may not be current, and Jones said many people avoid officers.

"I've attempted seven [or] eight times before I've returned them to court," said Jones.

With numbers like that, it begs the question; will all these warrants and papers ever be served?

"Realistically speaking, I don't know that it is possible," said Lt. Carter.

In the end, it could be the public who pays the price.

"It is an effective deterrent if you have defendants that think they're going to have to serve jail time rather than it being one [or] two years down the road before they receive consequences for their actions," Lt. Carter added.

We did some checking at other law enforcement agencies and found out the Kingsport Police Department has roughly less than 300 outstanding warrants. The Carter County Sheriff's Department has over 3,000, and Washington County, Tennessee's sheriff's department has just under 5,000.

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