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Deadbeat Patrol Arrests 9 Fathers : Child support: Investigators armed with 156 warrants stage the county’s annual roundup of parents who owe payments.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

In an unusual twist on a Mother’s Day tribute, Ventura County Dist. Atty. Michael D. Bradbury held his annual roundup of deadbeat dads on Saturday, arresting nine of 148 fathers wanted for back child support payments.

While he was at it, Bradbury set his sights on eight deadbeat moms. But investigators were unable to track down any of the mothers.

Armed with their share of 156 arrest warrants, 15 teams of two investigators set out around the county shortly after 6 a.m. Most teams found bad addresses, nobody home or a brother, mother or friend claiming that they no longer knew the whereabouts of the wanted person.

Occasionally, however, the investigators got lucky.

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“They never would have got me if I hadn’t had that cup of Mom’s coffee,” said Keith Edward Baldwin, 32, of Oxnard. Baldwin, who owes $21,814 to the state to help support his 3-year-old son, had stopped by his parents’ house on his way to a cement pumping job shortly after 7 a.m.

Clad in faded blue jeans and a red sleeveless jersey with the number 32 on the front, Baldwin was handcuffed and brought to Oxnard City Hall. There, a sheriff’s van waited to take him and other arrestees to the county jail in Ventura for booking.

The media, called in by Bradbury to help publicize his determination to collect back child support, also greeted Baldwin at his unceremonious arrival.

“This isn’t exactly the way I want to make the news,” said Baldwin as photographers recorded him bending his tall frame to climb into the back of the van. “It would have been better, maybe, if I was saving somebody’s life.”

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Baldwin cheered quickly, however, when he recognized the next prisoner who was ushered into the back of the van. The two men laughed and greeted each other. How are they acquainted? “Deadbeats,” Baldwin said.

Saturday’s blitz marked the eighth of Bradbury’s annual roundups, which are usually held closer to Father’s Day than Mother’s Day. At a news conference Friday, Bradbury said the roundups are valuable in part for the arrests made both during and after the sweep but primarily for the publicity they generate.

“We want to re-emphasize the need to support children. And if you don’t, you’re going to go to jail,” Bradbury told reporters.

Ventura County ranks top in the state for collections of back child support payments compared to the money spent on welfare, Bradbury said.

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The nine arrested Saturday had a collective debt of $121,744, said C. Stanley Trom, who heads the Child Support Division of Bradbury’s office.

Trom said nine arrests out of 156 warrants ranks among the worst capture rates in the history of the roundups. Nine more people, including one woman, called investigators Saturday afternoon when they learned of the warrants for their arrests, and their voluntary surrender will bring the success rate up, Trom said.

He expects 20 to 30 additional calls from the outstanding warrants during the coming week, he said.

Both Bradbury and Trom stressed that Saturday’s roundup is part of an effort that continues throughout the year. On a daily basis, three investigators instead of 30 are out arresting people on warrants.

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The other investigators are looking for clues to people’s whereabouts, preparing cases for trial, working on liens against homes or attachments to wages, Trom said.

Countywide, about 4,000 delinquent parents owe $71 million in back payments. About half of that money is owed to the state, which has provided welfare for the support of children, Trom said. The other half is owed directly to spouses or caretakers.

The 156 people for whom investigators searched on Saturday accounted for more than $2 million of the overdue child support debt in the county, Trom said.

Typically the mothers who owe support were young and unwed when they had their babies, Trom said. In many cases, they left their children with relatives or neighbors and did not return at the promised hour or day. When the new caretakers apply for state assistance to pay for the child’s upbringing, the state seeks to recover the money from the mother.

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For fathers, however, there is no typical case, Bradbury said.

“They defy profiling,” Bradbury said. “People come from all walks of life. There is an attorney in San Francisco whom we have an enforcement action against.”

Deputy Dist. Atty. Colleen White noted one general exception to Bradbury’s no-profile statement.

“Most absent fathers spend more for their car payments than they do for child support,” she said.

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