Dauphin County cracks down on deadbeat parents

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The cost of raising a child these days is at an all time high. Between sports and college education, it's enough to make your head spin. But some moms and dads do it by themselves because the other parent isn't pulling their weight. The Dauphin County Sheriff's Department is trying to crack down on parents who owe tens of thousands of dollars in child support.

Serving arrest warrants is nothing new for Dauphin County Sheriff Deputies.

"They're having an issue getting to the back, we're going to wait until we knock,"  said Deputy Daine Arthur.

They put their lives on the line.

"Yes you get nervous," said Deputy Sean Reid.

But, this job is something they take pride in.

"You never know what you're going to encounter on the other side of that door. Some people will be friendly and then as soon as you enter their home their entire demeanor changes," said Arthur.

We rode along with the Dauphin County Sheriff's Department while they served domestic relations warrants, looking for parents who aren't paying child support.

"He's not here, no he's gone for a couple of days," said a mother of a son who owes child support.

"Ok, we have to come inside and check," said Arthur.

The warrant allows deputies to go inside and search. The places where some of these people hide may surprise you.

"Bedsprings, kitchen cabinets, hidden compartments in walls, false closets," said Reid.

One of the most difficult parts of this job, the address on the warrant is rarely right.

"We hit so many warrants that sometimes you might forget that a house you hit 6 months ago is abandoned," said Arthur.

"Looking for Mr. Ramsey. Do you remember Donte?" asked a deputy.

"Oh, Donte, sure," said a landlord.

"Do you have a forwarding address for him?" asked a deputy.

More often than not it's a parent's address that the wanted person gives law enforcement. It makes for some very frustrated grandparents.

"It's money for my grandchild - you know?! And I'm like you were well taken care of I don't understand what the issue is," said another mother of a son who owes child support.

Jack Lotwick has served as the Dauphin County Sheriff for 19 years.

"It's hard to keep track of these people. A lot of these guys are transients. A lot of them change jobs. A lot of them work under the table," said Lotwick.

Dauphin County collected 46 million dollars in child support in 2014. But, lengthy lists mean there's still more work to do. Some owe tens of thousands of dollars. About 600 warrants are outstanding right now, totaling more than 4 million dollars. So, the department is taking a new approach thanks to the ideas of the deputies that knock on doors everyday.

"They came to me and they said how about we go and we take it one step further and go after the dead beat dads," said Lotwick.

The county lists its most wanted criminals a website. Now, it's where you can find the county's domestic relations delinquents.

"For about every warrant that I'm taking out, I'm putting another one in," said Deputy John Stoner.

Dauphin County Judge Jeannine Turgeon is hoping this plus the combination of social media makes a difference.

"We want to use that same social media and network to help the community, help these children find these most wanted people who are not paying their child support," said Turgeon.

She's experienced moms and dads who badly need the money.

"In tears, desperate, don't know what to do, often they've spent their last dime taking off work just to be in court," said Turgeon.

Her message to deadbeat parents: "If you have 5 dollars to buy a drink then you've got 5 dollars a day to help support your child."

But, getting that 5 dollars proved very difficult the day we tagged along with the sheriff's department. In the four hours we were with them we heard this: "That's a bad address." "Alright let's go down here and pick something else," over and over again.

These deputies won't give up.

"Alright, moving on to the next one," said Arthur.

They hope these parents will do the right thing and pay up. They also hope you recognize a face and make a call, that could help a child.

"This is not the end of it, we'll just keep going until we find everybody that we're looking for," said Lotwick.

The Dauphin County Sheriff's Department says it's received about 50 tips since domestic relations warrants went up on the crimewatch website.

To help, goto the Dauphin County's Sheriff Department's website.

14 comments

  • Erin

    OMG what about the patent who is going above and beyond paying child support and the parent receiving the child support blows the money on everything but the needs if the child! There are parent living on nothing because they are giving most of their pay to dead beat parents who can work but don’t. Who blow all that money on cigarettes, booze, and stuff for themselves rather than the child. Where is the justice in that?

    • Nathaniel Postma

      No shit! I was ordered TO NOT PAY ANYTHING to my kids’ mother. When I offered to pay regardless of what I was told, I suggested that she sign receipts. She refused. Because had I given her money, she would have had to claim it, and it would have been clawed back by welfare. She’s fully capable of working full time. She just refuses.

    • melissa

      Lancaster need to too. My son is 11 and i think iv had maybe 50 support payments. Its bin 1 year since my last one.

  • Robert Brandt

    What about the good parents who do pay and the mothers just blow the money on partying and booze? That’s what you need to look into as well. Start holding EVERY parent accountable not just one!

    • Upbeat Dad

      You are incorrect sir. A Child Support Order is an order of the court just the same as a judgment against you for any other legal matter. If you do not pay fines and costs ordered upon you, a warrant may be issued for your arrest. This is no different. It’s an order signed by a judge. I would like to see it go one step further personally and say that a law needs written that a parent who does not pay child support will lose all parental rights. It’s no different than throwing your child in a cardboard box on a sidewalk to fend for themselves.

      • cshustle1

        You are incorrect. Contempt of court means people arrested for owing a debt, hold the keys to their freedom. The key is money. If you can pay the debt, you will be freed. This is the same as a debtors’ prison. These were outlawed in 1833.

  • Upbeat Dad

    I applaud Judge Turgeon for her stance on this matter. She has a reputation for not putting up with peoples nonsense. And a little common sense goes a long way “If you have 5 dollars to buy a drink then you’ve got 5 dollars a day to help support your child.” Sherriff Lotwick, however, I am disappointed that you chose multiple times in this interview to imply that this is a gender related matter. FOX43 Did the correct thing by titling the segment “Deadbeat Parents”.

  • Mama for justice

    I know personally of deadbeat parents. I know personally of a parent who never took the other parent to court, who moved on with her and her daughters’ lives and took care of things well. But I also know personally of a father with a goid job that pays an enormous amount of child support plus private school tuition plus elective orthodontic work…and the mother DOES NOT and WILL NOT work…and the minors in question are teenagers, so no reason the mother can’t find suitable work with her two college degrees. Too many in the court system – when they find a father that is decent, hardworking, paying – don’t take the time to look at the situation in its entirety. Very sad.

  • Amanda

    I dont think it’s very fair that above, those not paying child support are considered dead beat dads….”take it one step further and go after these dead beat dads” THEY’RE NOT ALL DADS!!!! There are plenty of dead beat moms too….I would be careful how you word things. It can be extremely offensive to dad’s that are out there busting there ass to take care of their kids and the moms aren’t paying up!

  • LAD

    It all starts with the Domestic Relation office. They never follow up on cases. I waited over 30 years for the arrears for my case and it took him getting injured and having a law suit for me to get paid. Dauphin County Domestic Relations is a joke. Something needs to be done about the system. It is definitely broken.

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