Montgomery County sheriff's deputies arrested 22 people yesterday for not making child-support payments, part of a weekend roundup they said was timed to give publicity to a national conference on enforcement of child-support laws.
Prince George's County sheriff's deputies were expected to follow the Montgomery sweep with a roundup of their own during the early morning hours today. Prince George's officials hope to arrest at least 50 of the 300 people they have targeted, according to Prince George's Sheriff's Department Col. Ernst Zaccanelli.
The sweeps coincide with the start yesterday of the National Child Support Enforcement Association's annual conference in Baltimore. The association represents about 3,000 people involved in the enforcement of child-support laws, ranging from social workers to police officers and sheriff's deputies.
"We wanted to more or less show support to them," said Sgt. Ronald Frye, a spokesman for the Montgomery County sheriff's department. "We feel good about how well we did."
Frye said the 22 people arrested in yesterday's roundup -- 21 men and one woman -- owed a total of more than $73,500 in child support. One man owed about $11,200, Frye said.
More crucial than the money that might be recovered is the effect the enforcement action may have on other delinquent spouses, said one advocate of tough enforcement of child-support laws.
"The publicity is the important thing," said Cathy Calimer, a board member of the National Child Support Enforcement Association. "Every time people see stories about these arrests you see longer lines at the payment window."
Calimer said the association did not formally ask departments to conduct the sweeps, "but it was a grass-roots thing that came from the departments themselves."
Yesterday's roundup in Montgomery was that county's fifth such sweep since January 1989. The four previous sweeps resulted in 46 arrests of people who collectively owed about $208,000, sheriff's department figures show.
Montgomery County sheriff's deputies can conduct the sweeps only occasionally because of the overtime costs involved, Frye said. About 34 deputies and other personnel were involved in yesterday's action, which was scheduled between 4 a.m. and noon. Frye said he did not know how much the action cost.
In addition to the 22 arrested for nonpayment of child support, deputies also arrested 33 people on outstanding warrants for other offenses. Some were picked up for failing to pay alimony; others were sought on warrants related to indictments issued for drug or sex offenses.
All told, the deputies had targeted about 100 people.
"Some people were not easy to pick up. We had to look under beds or up in attics," Frye said.