Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

December 23, 2012

Authorities: Warrant list continues to produce results

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

PRINCETON — An active warrants list published Sundays in the Bluefield Daily Telegraph has generated benefits beyond getting warrants served – it has brought money to children who need it.

Warrants for people who have failed to pay child support are a regular feature on the list issued weekly by the Mercer County Sheriff’s Department. Many of the child support warrants are cleared, but new ones come in for processing.

“I just signed five or six more this morning,” Judge Mary Ellen Griffith of the Mercer County Family Court said recently. “We’ve seen an increase in arrests since their publication. That means we’re collecting significant amounts of money. The goal is not to incarcerate obligators, but to collect support for needy children. And we’re seeing it happen more.”

Griffith serves on family court with two other judges. Each is seeing an increase in people meeting their child support obligations. She stated that her own court alone has seen more collections now that the warrants list is being published regularly.

“Last week we collected $1,500 that we would not have collected otherwise – that’s one week, one court,” Griffith said. “There are three courts doing this.”

People who owe child support money often ignore their obligations until a warrant is issued and published.

“They don’t show up in court, they ignore summons from the court, and don’t tell us what they’re doing,” she said. “They’re just trying to slide by.”

A warrant helps the obligators realize that it is now time to comply with the family court’s order and pay the money they owe to their children.

“What the warrant says is that you either pay this amount or you go to jail,” Griffith said. “I think more people are aware now. It just helps the kids.”

People on the warrants list often come to the sheriff’s department because they did not know that a warrant has been issued for them, said Lt. Joe Parks of the Mercer County Sheriff’s Department. The list also generates tips concerning the whereabouts of the people named on it.