Bail bondsmen share their concerns over city's shifting of inmates


When the North Las Vegas Detention and Corrections facility closed July 1, about 100 employees received pink slips, and nearly 300 prisoners got an eviction notice.

The decision was handed down to save millions for the cash-strapped city, but it left a choppy wake for at least one group - North Las Vegas bail bondsmen.

"It has affected me greatly," said Richard Ransom, president of A&A Bail Bonds, 2444 Las Vegas Blvd. North. "You go over to post bonds, and it's in disarray. There is no order. Business is going to go to all downtown (bail bond agents)."

A bail bondsman, or bail bond agent, pledges money or property as bail for an accused person in court or jail in exchange for a percentage of the bail price under contractual agreement. A person - the defendant or the defendant's family and friends - pays a percentage of the court-specified bail amount to a professional bondsman or bail bond organization, who will then put up the cash as a guarantee that the person will appear in court.

Ransom has been a bondsman for half of the 40 years he has lived in North Las Vegas, he said.

"I love North Las Vegas, but we have no money," he said. "The way they were trying to beautify North Las Vegas, you would have thought they had plenty of money."

North Las Vegas faced a $33.3 million deficit in its fiscal 2013 budget this spring and combated it with cuts, reduced hours at city-run facilities, staff layoffs, employee labor union negotiations and strategic financial measures, said city manager Timothy Hacker.

City officials in Las Vegas and North Las Vegas struck a five-year agreement in June to rent beds, share manpower and house inmates at City of Las Vegas Detention and Enforcement facility, 3300 E. Stewart Ave. The facility is about three miles away from the North Las Vegas jail.

North Las Vegas operates one wing of the Las Vegas jail with about 40 employees from its previous facility.

The move is slated to save North Las Vegas $11 million this fiscal year and $16 million in future budgets. City officials also said that although the North Las Vegas detention center is shuttered, the facility will be maintained and possibly reopened during better economic times.

Ransom set up shop close to the former North Las Vegas Detention Center and said his boom days were about 15 years ago.

Today, he said he faces courthouse disorganization and delays releasing North Las Vegas inmates.

"The other day, it took me three days to release someone for a misdemeanor - something silly like jaywalking," he said.

Timing is an issue for other bondsmen.

Chris Ball, president of Scream & Shout Bail Bonds, 310 E. Lake Mead Blvd., said he offers his service 24/7 and said North Las Vegas is the most difficult municipality with which to do night and weekend business.

"The court isn't open 24/7, and it puts restraints on my clients," he said. "You can post (bond) anytime in city and Henderson jail, and county jail is only closed midnight to 8 a.m."

Although North Las Vegas inmates are housed in the Las Vegas jail, its staff must handle their bond and release, he said. Bail bondsmen physically deliver a bond to a court or detention center, Ball said.

"If someone comes in on a Saturday, we have to tell them they can't get out until Monday," he said.

The jail closing and changes to procedure haven't negatively affected all area bondsmen.

All Star Bail Bonds, which has five Southern Nevada locations, has seen little change, said manager Kim Garcia.

"It hasn't affected anything," she said. "We like it, actually. It's convenient."

More defendants are centralized, she said, and procedures with North Las Vegas courts didn't change.

Maria Arroyo, manager of All Star Bail Bonds, North Las Vegas branch, 1852 Civic Center Drive, said despite its location, it does most of its business with county or city of Las Vegas offenders.

"We haven't lost or gained so far," she said. "We're just now on standby to see if it helps or changes, but we're working the same."

For Ransom and Ball, they said they too are going to see if their businesses are negatively affected. Ball said he's open to relocation.

Ransom, who also owns an insurance agency, said he won't bail on North Las Vegas.

"I won't move downtown," he said.

Contact Centennial and North Las Vegas View reporter Maggie Lillis at mlillis@viewnews.com or 477-3839.

 

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