Deadbeat Parents Run, Hide but Florida Still Finds Them

Associated Press

Deputies chased one father through the woods and found another one hiding in a shower during the first statewide roundup of deadbeat parents in Florida.

More than 680 people who were behind on child-support payments had been arrested as of Friday afternoon, said Donna O'Neal, a spokeswoman for the Department of Revenue.

At least 40 had some other kind of charge pending, from robbery to aggravated assault to capital sexual battery, officials said. Buddy Phillips, executive director of the Florida Sheriffs Assn., said deputies encountered little resistance. Most of those arrested were men, he said.

In Volusia County, Sgt. Ted Fish said a couple of men tried to hide or run.

"We pulled one out from behind a shower curtain," he said. "One guy ran from one of my deputies and he just happened to pick the wrong time."

Fish explained that not only was there a helicopter overhead, but the sheriff's district office was just a short distance away and a couple of canine officers on their way home responded to the call for help as the man ran through woods near Ormond Beach.

"Within two minutes, he was surrounded by 30 police," Fish said.

Once arrested, parents could buy their freedom by paying the money owed or an amount that a judge has decreed would show a good-faith effort to pay the full debt. One father in Columbia County in northern Florida got out of jail after paying $5,000 in $50 bills, O'Neal said.

She said the department would announce the final number of arrests and the amount collected Monday. "It looks like we'll break six figures," she said.

O'Neal said the blitz was a lot more successful than authorities anticipated, largely because of the enthusiasm of the state's sheriffs.

"For the most part these are people who have repeatedly thumbed their noses at their responsibility to their children," she said.

The Department of Revenue took over the child-support enforcement program from the Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services last fall.

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