Decline in bail bond business blamed on COVID-19

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 9, 2020

By Shavonne Potts

SALISBURY — A local bail bondsman says he estimates his business has seen a minimum of a 70% decline that he attributes to the COVID-19 outbreak.

“It hit pretty hard,” said Ralph Young, owner of Unlock Me Bail Bonding.

“We’re seeing a definite decline in bonds being done. The scary part about that is once this thing turns and everything goes back to what we may want to say normal, I think what will happen is you will see more failure to appears,” Young said.

Once the restrictions loosen, he suspects more people won’t show up because some of the recent court appearances have been pushed out.

“They’re going to forget about their dates because they are pushed out so far,” Young said.

As a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Chief Justice Cheri Beasley ordered a 30-day postponement of most district and superior courts in March. Some cases continued, including juvenile court and domestic violence-related matters.

Locally, Rowan County Sheriff Kevin Auten asked local law enforcement agencies to issue citations when appropriate, which in turn reduced the number of arrests and the need for bonds.

Another part of a bail bondsman’s job is locating people who have skipped out on bond, but Young said he didn’t have any.

He expects the industry won’t rebound quickly as the state restrictions loosen and more people return to their “normal” activities.

He said more citations will be coming for certain crimes.

“I don’t see why not, if it’s effective and if it’s working. It could be a way to handle the challenge of those who may not be able to pay a bond,” Young said.

“I think more than anything else it’s going to be a gradual process. It won’t be something that will rebound immediately at all. Since they change how they look at doing releases now. They will weigh all of the citations, pay attention to that data and decide how they will move forward with defendants,” Young said.

He said he is curious to see what will happen if the numbers of those who fail to appear will increase drastically if no bond is in place.

He also attributes the reduced crime rate in the last month or more to the pandemic.

Young said he believes the sheriff and his office have done a good job in reducing the jail population.