CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - It’s a search to find wanted criminals, parents charged with felony crimes for not paying child support.
Ohio is one of the top states in the nation with child support cases. In an exclusive 19 Investigation, Shannon Houser followed child support investigators in Summit County to show how a small, but aggressive child support unit is holding parents accountable.
The investigators went door to door searching for parents who aren’t paying and owe money to the kids they should be supporting financially.
In Summit County last year parents owed more than $1.6 million.
“Our number one goal is to get people to pay their child support," explained Summit County Prosecutor, Sherri Bevan Walsh.
Investigators actively search for parents with warrants out for their arrest. These are moms and dads who either haven’t paid child support in more than six months or owe more than $5,000.
In Summit County right now, there are more than 50 active warrants for delinquent parents.
“On some cases, you have to go as far as to arrest someone to get them to start paying," Walsh said.
In the first stop, investigators were searching for James Mollohan.
His listed address is on Clay Street in Akron. Mollohan wasn’t there. He owes nearly $50,000 in child support.
He hasn’t been making regular payments for 20 years. Investigators have been looking for him since Dec. 13.
Parents who pay child support are required to update their addresses with the Summit County Prosecutor’s Office. Investigators will follow-up on Mollohan’s case later.
Next up, 19 News followed investigators as they searched for Jevaunate Cooper. He owes more than $63,000.
The last time Cooper paid child support, he handed over just 100 bucks. Cooper was found inside his apartment and arrested on the spot. Investigators had been looking for him for more than three months.
Investigators also planned to search for Patrisha Davis. She owes more than $22,000 in child support.
Davis was found hiding out in Florida. She was arrested in Volusia County on a grand theft case. She’s also being held on the child support charges in Summit County.
“It’s not the easiest thing sometimes to go out and find somebody and arrest them on a warrant, especially when the person is intentionally hiding from us," Walsh said.
Another challenge is a small unit searching for dozens of parents. Last year, just two investigators arrested 60 moms and dads. The year before that, they arrested nearly 100.
“Certainly, we could probably use 20. We could use a lot more prosecutors at my office as well, but unfortunately, the budget just doesn’t allow for more individuals," Walsh explained.
It’s not always easy to get parents to pay. Walsh said the unit has collected more than $49 million since 2015. They sometimes use incentives to get them to hand over cash.
“We’ve taken tax returns. We can suspend drivers licenses. We can suspend professional licenses," Walsh said.
Statewide, child support impacts the quality of life for more than one million children.
“We certainly aren’t trying to go after people and jail people that simply cannot pay their child support," Walsh said. She added, “Unfortunately, we’ve seen probably more cases where somebody could pay, but they aren’t willing to pay their child support.”
Still, Ohio has the 4th largest caseload of child support nationwide.
In some families, that cash makes up nearly 40 percent of household income. It’s money that can mean feeding, clothing, and basic needs for Ohio’s most precious population.
“There are so many families that really rely heavily on receiving child support," Walsh said.
To help get the word out about parents with a warrant, the prosecutors office started Friday Finds on their Facebook page.