2003-09-24 / Editorials

Working Together To Stop Illegal Dumping

by john j. doherty
Working Together To Stop Illegal Dumping by john j. doherty

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has just announced that the Department of Sanitation will conduct a citywide initiative to clean up illegal dumping sites and go after illegal dumpers. The need for this aggressive cleanup and enforcement campaign became even more urgent after Mayor Bloomberg and I drove around the city and saw with our own eyes what can only be described as wanton acts of illegal dumping. We also observed that the problem wasn’t restricted to one particular area of the city. Here and there, throughout the five boroughs, illegal dumpers had left piles of discarded tires, trash and construction materials.

The first question that comes to mind is: Why would anyone defy the law and dump piles of trash on someone else’s property? The second—and equally important—question is: Would these criminals dump in their neighborhoods, next to their homes? While we may never fully understand the dumpers’ disdain for other people’s communities, we all know the answer to the second question. Dumpers spare their own communities, knowing too well that illegal dumping can define a neighborhood as an area of neglect.

The faceless victims of this insidious, cowardly crime—often committed in the dead of night—are the families who live near illegal dumps, the children who must walk by these mountains of trash on their way to school and any New Yorker who happens to walk or drive by these sites.

Now to the facts. Illegal dumping is first and foremost a serious violation of the city Administrative Code. It turns city neighborhoods into eyesores and, at its worst, it could represent a health threat.

Just because illegal dumping is an age-old problem in our city, doesn’t mean that New Yorkers should accept it as part of the city’s landscape. Mayor Bloomberg and I are determined to solve this problem and have made our fight against illegal dumping a top priority. But since it’s impossible for the Department to watch all potential dumping sites day and night, we must rely on you, the community. New Yorkers are our eyes, ears and, in many cases, our noses! Most importantly, they are our partners in reporting illegal dumping.

We urge you to be our partner. By reporting illegal dumping you can earn cash incentives of up to 50 percent of any collected fines. Fines for illegal dumping start at $1,500 and can go as high as $20,000. So, you can be a good citizen, help your community and earn a reward. If you see someone illegally dumping, the mayor has suggested you call 911 and report the crime in progress directly to the New York Police Department. If you come across an illegal dumping site or know of a site that seems to be the habitual target of illegal dumpers, you should gather the necessary information and call 311.

Useful information includes:

•the dumping site address or approximate area,

•the nature of dumped material (as far as you can tell, without ever touching it)

•license plates and description of any vehicle involved in the crime

•typical time and day of the week when dumping occurs, if the site happens to be frequented habitually.

Then just dial ‘311’ and ask about our Illegal Dumping Tip Program and our Illegal Dumping Award Program. We provide a safe environment for citizens to tip off the Department about illegal dumping where they may even choose not to have their names disclosed.

Above all, remember: You are a very valuable witness, not an enforcer. Never take action yourself.

The city will take appropriate action by cleaning up sites, staking out habitual illegal dumping sites or, in the case of illegal dumping in progress, by setting in motion the necessary steps to catch the authors of the crime and bring them to justice.

We prosecute offenders by impounding vehicles used in the commission of the crime and by imposing fines on vehicle owners and operators. Vehicles are returned to their owners only after fines have been paid and sites have been cleaned and restored at the dumpers’ expense.

In the last 10 months alone, 260 vehicle operators and 270 vehicle owners received Sanitation summonses for illegal dumping throughout the five boroughs, while 226 vehicles—some as large as 18-wheel rigs worth over $100,000—were impounded. And I’m sure that with your help we can do even better.

For more information on Sanitation anti dumping programs or to report dumping sites, call the Citizens Service Center, ‘311’, or visit www.nyc.gov/sanitation.

Help your community and report illegal dumping. It’s easy and it offers great rewards. More important, it’s completely safe—you can even choose not to have your name disclosed.

I am confident that all of us, working together, can put an end to this urban blight.

John Doherty is the commissioner of the city Department of Sanitation.


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