Authorities arrest 87 on nonsupport charges

May 14, 1994|By Richard Irwin | Richard Irwin,Sun Staff Writer Sun staff writer Larry Carson contributed to this article.

About 80 people, including nine women, were arrested early yesterday by Baltimore sheriff's deputies on warrants charging them with failure to pay child support and related offenses.

Another seven were arrested in eastern Baltimore County in a separate operation by county authorities.

City Sheriff John W. Anderson said the Baltimore arrests were part of several planned citywide sweeps aimed at forcing delinquent parents to provide support for their children.

"Our goal is to help dependent children get the money they rightfully deserve through court action," Sheriff Anderson said. "It's the children of these people who really suffer."

"We call it enforcing responsibility, said Louis Curry 3rd, director of the Office of Child Support Enforcement in the state Department of Human Resources.

Fifty-five of the city arrests occurred Thursday -- at homes, at work or places the people frequent. Charging papers were served on 14 men held at the Baltimore City Detention Center on unrelated criminal charges. By 6 a.m. yesterday, deputies had arrested nearly a dozen more people. The operation ended yesterday.

Deputies began knocking on doors at 3 a.m. yesterday. They broke down a door in the 3000 block of Eastern Ave. in Highlandtown when no one answered.

"That's a heck of an alarm clock," one deputy said.

The 29-year-old man arrested at that house owed some $13,000 in child support, according to deputies.

Sheriff Anderson said those arrested in the two-day sweep owed an average of $3,000 in child support.

Once parents are arrested, Sheriff Anderson said, many begin to play what he called "dialing for dollars."

"They make a few phone calls and all of a sudden the money that's been out there for years and not paid suddenly shows up" he said.

Sheriff Anderson said cases of long-term delinquency are reviewed by child support enforcement officials and his office. The sweeps result in a large number of arrests three or four times a year, he said.

"We have a pretty good information network, together with deputies who work hard in tracking down the worse cases of nonsupport and persons who fail to show up in court to answer nonsupport charges," Sheriff Anderson said.

Statewide, some $360 million is owed in nonsupport payments, with Baltimore accounting for at least 65 percent of the cases, Mr. Curry said.

He said about 6,000 cases are added each year in Maryland.

"When word gets out about the sweeps, my phone will ring off the hook with people giving us information about where delinquent parents can be found," Mr. Curry said.

The sweeps were funded by the federal Department of Health and Human Services, Sheriff Anderson said. For every arrest, the department adds $245 to the city's general fund, the sheriff said.

"We made a lot of money over the past two nights," the sheriff said. "We get their attention real fast when we wake them up at 3 a.m. or take them off the job."

In eastern Baltimore County, seven fathers who are behind in their court-ordered child support payments were arrested early yesterday in raids by county sheriff's deputies and county police.

County Sheriff Norman M. Pepersack Jr. said a 20-year-old Essex man owed $8,362 in back payments -- the highest amount among those arrested. The raids began at 12:15 a.m. and ended at 6 a.m. after 23 homes in the east side were visited.

Sheriff Pepersack said three fathers who were out when deputies went to their houses called later and promised to clear up their debts.

Men arrested must either pay the full amount owed, make a partial payment and set up a schedule with the court or go to jail on work release until the child support money is paid, the sheriff said.

This was the third sweep by the sheriff's office since January. In all, 20 fathers owing $110,071 have been found and forced to begin paying, Sheriff Pepersack said.

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