Saturday, October 09, 1999

Welfare rolls net fugitives

18 off dole; 30 felons arrested

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A sweep of fugitive felons receiving welfare checks in Hamilton County this week has netted 30 arrests and resulted in 18 wanted persons being taken off the public dole.

        Auditor of State Jim Petro's office has teamed up with county sheriff departments since 1995, cross-checking felony arrest warrants with a database of welfare recipients.

        This was the second such sweep in Hamilton County, which started its partnership with the state auditor in 1997.

        Kim Norris, spokeswoman for Mr. Petro's office, said welfare records often provide law enforcement with reliable information on fugitives' addresses.

        “There are two reasons for the partnership: You stop the benefits immediately, and you usually get some very reliable information about the person's whereabouts,” Ms. Norris said.

        Statewide, more than $408,000 has been saved by arresting 439 felons — 225 of them in Hamilton County, according to the auditor's office.

        The fugitive information also is shared with the Hamilton County Department of Human Services, which has terminated 142 cases and referred another 101 cases for fraud prosecution.

        Steve Barnett, spokesman for the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office, said the partnership is helpful to law enforcement because of the large number of felony warrants issued every month.

        “Even if the addresses aren't any good, it's a way for us to make sure law violators don't get county money,” Mr. Barnett said. “We assign the list of names to a group of investigators and grab up as many of them as we can.”

        Welfare reform laws were changed in 1996 to allow the sharing of information between law enforcement and human services agencies. However, Mr. Petro noted that Ohio started conducting fugitive sweeps based on welfare information before the law authorized the sharing of such information.


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- Welfare rolls net fugitives