The News & Observer reports that Durham city and county officials are asking the state for help in light of news that Durham probation officers have lost track of 861 of the 4,161 probationers assigned to their office.

In a letter sent to earlier this week to the state Department of Correction, Ellen Reckhow, chair of the Durham County Board of Commissioners and Howard Clement of the Durham City Council ask that a significant portion of the $2.5 million recently added to probation system’s budget be allocated for Durham.

“We are the poster child for what is wrong in probation” said Reckhow when reached by phone earlier today. “What we were trying to do is let the state know that if anyone office needs added resources, it’s Durham.”

The letter describes a recent meeting of the crime cabinet where John Lee, interim director of the Durham probation office, revealed that 20 percent of the office’s assigned probationers have “absconded,” or failed to check in for at least one month.

That, says Reckhow, is nearly double the national rate.

Lee also that he is having trouble filling the office’s nine vacancies, citing probation officer’s starting salary and the heavier than recommended workload.

Starting salary for probation officers is $30,000.

Officials won’t learn how the $2.5 million will actually be allocated until after the legislature reviews an ongoing National Instititute of Corrections study of the state system.