430 owing $1.8 million in child support arrested in statewide 'Midnight Run'

November 05, 1994|By Richard Irwin and Brad Snyder | Richard Irwin and Brad Snyder,Sun Staff Writers

More than 430 men and women who owed over $1.8 million in child support were arrested throughout the state by local sheriffs' deputies, Maryland Department of Human Resources officials said yesterday.

In Baltimore alone, 68 people were arrested for owing $400,000 in child support in what officials say was Maryland's first statewide roundup of "deadbeat parents."

The sweep, a collaborative effort by DHR's child-support enforcement administration and local sheriffs' departments, targeted about 500 violators, Human Resources Secretary Luther W. Starnes said.

"We want to get across the message to deadbeat parents that you must take care of your children," Mr. Starnes said.

In Baltimore, deputies had targeted 72 offenders. Officials say they expect to arrest as many as 10 more people, identified during the raids.

"There's some stragglers out there, and there's a lot of people out there we weren't even looking for," said Baltimore Sheriff John W. Anderson.

"If we can get another 10 people out of this thing, that would be the icing on the cake."

Dubbed "The Midnight Run," the crackdown, in Baltimore and all 23 counties, began at 12:01 a.m. in an attempt to surprise people at their homes.

"The courts have given these people every latitude to avoid our knocking on their doors at 3 a.m.," Mr. Anderson said, "but some people need a little bit of urging to live up to the obligation of being parents."

Baltimore deputies tracked one man who owed $30,000 in child support payments to Pasadena, where he was arrested at his home shortly after midnight.

By Friday afternoon, other subjects were being arrested at their places of business.

Mr. Anderson said his deputies arrested one man who had a corporate job and could afford to support his family.

"What shocks me was the man was making good money, and he wasn't taking care of his children," he said.

The city receives about $240 from the state for each child-support warrant served. It will collect about $16,000 for Friday's efforts, said Mr. Anderson, whose deputies have been planning the arrests for more than a month.

In Baltimore County, deputies arrested 34 people who owed $212,000; Prince George's County arrested 71 people; Harford County 20; Carroll and Howard counties eight each; and Montgomery and Calvert counties 42 each.

Fanning out after midnight, deputies armed with arrest warrants and descriptions of their prey began knocking on the front doors of houses and apartments.

Once arrested, the subjects were locked up at local police stations or sheriffs' offices pending bail hearings today.

Louis Curry, director of Baltimore's child-support enforcement division, described the arrests as "an attention-getter."

"We find that when large numbers of arrests are made, the parents who fail to provide support for their children and are afraid of being arrested suddenly show up with their money," he said.

But many of the people targeted yesterday don't take the support of children seriously, he said. "They will now."

Some of those arrested were taken away in nightclothes.

A Baltimore woman left a month-old child in the care of a boyfriend. She has two other children.

In another Baltimore case, a 33-year-old man attempted to hide in a basement, but was arrested after some pushing and shoving.

While no major resistance was reported, there was some salty language as those arrested got dressed and were escorted to a van in the glare of television lights.

Over the past year, Mr. Starnes said, state child-support offices found more than 46,000 absent parents; 10,500 paternities were established, and nearly $250 million collected.

However, more than $700 million is still owed to Maryland's dependent children, he said.

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