D.A. Cracks Down on Delinquent Fathers : Armed With 400 Warrants, Investigators Begin Countywide Sweep
A weeklong crackdown on fathers delinquent in their child support payments, timed to coincide with Father’s Day, is to begin this morning with 19 two-person teams of investigators sweeping the county to make arrests on 400 outstanding criminal warrants, Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Ira Reiner announced.
Reiner is also sending letters to 24,000 other delinquent parents--not yet subject to criminal charges--warning them that they will face criminal or civil prosecution if they do not pay their debts immediately. Each of the delinquent parents owes at least $500 in back payments of child support, according to Cheryl J. Ward Smith, Reiner’s special assistant for family support.
“The pressure is now on. It’s been too comfortable in the past,” Smith said. “You better pay or you are looking at some serious consequences.”
The crackdown is occurring several weeks after Reiner, counter to suggestions of a group of feminists led by activist attorney Gloria Allred, voiced opposition to a child-support amnesty program. Members of Allred’s group, who staged a sit-in in Reiner’s office in April in an unsuccessful attempt to meet face-to-face with the district attorney, said an amnesty program would result in payments of arrears by parents who would otherwise fear prosecution.
Reiner said, however, that an amnesty program is “not practicable” because it would involve treading on the judiciary system. In a May 15 letter to the county Board of Supervisors, he said: “We are limited in our authority to instruct any law enforcement officer not to execute (a) warrant since it is a court order commanding the apprehension of a named defendant.”
Promises to Expand Roundup
He promised instead to intensify and expand his office’s annual Father’s Day roundup of men who are the subjects of criminal warrants.
In previous years, Reiner said, eight teams have been employed in the countywide roundup. This year, 19 teams operating locally will be supplemented by two others, which will go through the rest of the state to arrest delinquents who have moved from Los Angeles County.
Reiner estimated that about 200 of the 400 parents currently subject to arrest on county criminal warrants will be apprehended this week. These parents each face maximum jail sentences of one year and $2,000 fines for non-support, according to Smith.
During previous roundups about 100 arrests have been made, and in average months about 50 arrests are made, the district attorney said.
“The real thrust” of the beefed-up effort, according to Reiner, is the mailing of the notices warning delinquent fathers to contact their family support representatives.
“There is no grace period,” says the letter, due to arrive at homes early this week. “In order for you to avoid criminal and/or civil prosecution, you must contact this office prior to our instituting any action.”
New prosecutions will be filed beginning July 1, Reiner said.
“We expect a deluge of calls (this week),” the district attorney predicted. “This is at the no more Mr. Nice Guy stage.”