Police in Harford County said today an organized sweep for parents delinquent on child-support payments was prompting "deadbeat dads" to voluntarily pay what is owed.
In the first operation of its kind organized by the Harford County Sheriff's Department, officers swept through Baltimore and three Maryland counties last night delivering Father's Day surprises: arrest warrants. Nearly 300 parents, mostly fathers, were the targets.
One man came to the Sheriff's Department building in Bel Air last night and paid the $500 he owed, said Deputy DeWayne Curry, a department spokesman.
"Hopefully, more of them will do the same thing," Deputy Curry said. Attorneys and delinquent parents, after learning of the sweep, also were calling to find out what is owed.
About 20 delinquent parents were caught last night. They face charges of contempt of court and failure to obey court orders, authorities said.
Those who had not posted bonds or paid the back child support were being held today at the Harford County Detention Center.
More than 50 officers, working between 4 p.m. and 11 p.m., delivered arrest warrants in the city and in Baltimore, Cecil and Harford counties.
The worst offender sought is William Robert Wood, 45, a Baltimore County man who owes $31,610 for two children, said the Harford County Department of Social Services.
Sought by police since December, he most recently lived in the 7100 block of Rolling Bend Road in the Woodlawn area, and last made a support payment in January 1991.
Mr. Wood -- who also tops the state's most-wanted list -- remained at large today.
In Havre de Grace, two officers traveled down Battery Drive, stopping at four houses in search of one of the suspects.
They came up empty each time.
"Now you see why police work is so frustrating," said Lt. Jesse Bane, who traveled throughout the area to coordinate the raids.
Acting on a tip, Deputy Gary Cowan of the Harford Sheriff's Department and Cpl. Alfred Cloud of the Havre de Grace police went to a small brick apartment building off Lodge Lane. James Miller Wallace was soon wearing handcuffs and leg irons.
Mr. Wallace, 26, is accused of owing $1,035 in support payments.
The delinquent fathers need to understand that the law has finished playing around with them, Lieutenant Bane said.
The raid "is just the beginning," he said.