Eight-state sweep nets hundreds of 'deadbeat' parents 75 in Baltimore area arrested in effort


A story about delinquent child support payments in the Nov. 15 issue of The Sun misstated the amount of payments collected by Maryland officials. The state collected $250 million in payments.

The Sun regrets the errors.

Charles R. Fort Jr. got a 4 a.m. wake-up call yesterday from Baltimore County Deputy Sheriff Donald G. Frederick -- part of an eight-state sweep to collect back child-support payments from "deadbeat" parents.

Mr. Fort was among hundreds of parents arrested yesterday and today in Operation Northeast Express, a first-time collaborative effort by law-enforcement officers in Eastern corridor states from Maine to Maryland.

Authorities claim Mr. Fort owes $25,707 -- labeled the highest child-support debt in Baltimore County.

Mr. Fort, 47 and unemployed, was found at his father's Dundalk home. He "lives here and there" and has an 18-year-old daughter in eastern Baltimore County -- and possibly other children as well -- said his father, Charles R. Fort Sr.

"They came here at 4 a.m. and woke me up," said the elder Mr. Fort. "I heard them banging on the door -- I didn't know what the devil it was."

He expressed surprise at the amount his son allegedly owes -- and embarrassment at the wee-hours visit.

Baltimore city and county deputies went looking for deadbeat parents between midnight and 6 a.m., when they are most likely to be home, and when the element of surprise would be present.

The sweeps also targeted parents in 12 other Maryland jurisdictions.

In addition to Maine, states participating in the operation were Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and New Jersey.

Baltimore deputies arrested 40 delinquents of 75 sought in the city, and county deputies nabbed 30 of about 45 deadbeats sought.

Harford County's team arrested five people in a continuing operation.

Results from other areas were not immediately available.

The teams of deputies, some in plainclothes and some in uniforms, carried civil arrest warrants.

They took prisoners in unmarked police cars and vans to local court facilities to be interviewed by child-support workers and to arrange for back payment.

In the city and county, those who could make payment arrangements were released pending court appearances.

The others went to jail -- in most cases for at least five to seven days -- until their court dates, according to Baltimore County Sheriff Norman M. Pepersack Jr.

"I think we did very well, factoring in the weather conditions," he ,, said. "We did a little better than 50 percent."

The arrests represent at least $137,000 in uncollected payments in Baltimore County. The city total was unknown.

Most people "swept" up were cooperative, although one Baltimore County man hid under a bed and would not come out until deputies reached down, pulled him out and handcuffed him as he cried about being afraid to go to jail, Deputy Frederick said.

It was the fourth sweep of the year for Baltimore County, according to Michael Helms, administrative supervisor of the Baltimore County Division of Child upport, which enforces and monitors child-support orders.

"The bottom line here was taking care of children," said Baltimore Sheriff John W. Anderson. "This effort here was for the children."

In a statewide raid last year, Maryland deputies arrested 454 people who owed $1.8 million in child support, said J. C. Shay, a spokesman for the state's Department of Human Resources.

He said Maryland has collected more than $250,000 in child-support payments this year.

Clifford P. Layman, director of the state's Child Support Enforcement Administration, said about 11,000 warrants related to child support in Maryland were outstanding in June.

"The last time we did this, in the days after, people were lined up around the block to pay child support because people don't want to get arrested," Mr. Layman said. "It's a way to highlight the problem. It makes people know that we will find you."

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