Newly released videos show just how brazen illegal dumpers are when they think no one is watching.
Turns out someone is watching — Philadelphia police and city officials through cameras being installed across the city.
In one video taken at Valetta and Coral Streets in Frankford, a man climbs atop an old truck with a rack and simply begins shoving wood — probably construction debris — into an alley in broad daylight, not even bothering to push it out of the way of cars that might use the road. In another, captured on West Toronto Street in Swampoodle, a man begins pushing bags of trash out of the back of a box truck, not stopping as a car passes by.
Mayor Jim Kenney and other city officials said at a Wednesday news conference that they are appealing to the public to help catch illegal dumpers. And more cameras are being added to dumping hot spots, often located in the poorest sections of the city.
“We are sending the message that it is not OK to dump on Philly," Kenney said, adding that some people dump on a regular basis.
The city used to treat dumping as a summary offense, the most minor type of criminal offense. It is now treated at the very least as a misdemeanor.
Those found guilty can have their vehicles seized under city code and face cleanup fees. Additionally, Pennsylvania law allows for six months of incarceration and $5,000 in fines.
The city is plagued by illegal dumping, often of construction waste. But residents also toss thousands of tires each year into lots, sidewalks, and woods, often near waterways and riverbanks. Mattresses and televisions are strewn about vacant lots and under bridges. Officials say the dumping drives down property values. And, it affects lower income and minority residents the most because dumpers feel free to blight areas of the city where they live.
So the city has begun installing $4,000 cameras in known illegal dumping locations and has plans to have 50 installed by the end of the year. The cameras have rotating lenses and are “equipped with a high dynamic range” to capture images in areas that are well lit and those that are not.
Streets Commissioner Carlton Williams said the Streets Department spends millions each year cleaning up sites. For example, he said, 61st Street and Eastwick Avenue in Southwest Philadelphia is a particular target for tire dumping. His department is now coordinating efforts with the Police Department.
He and other officials urge residents who see dumping in progress to call 911, or 311 if the dumping has already occurred.
Kenney, Williams, District Attorney Larry Krasner, Managing Director Brian Abernathy, and Deputy Police Commissioner Dennis Wilson held the joint news conference to tell residents how to report illegal dumping and update them on progress going after the dumpers.
From January through May, Philadelphia has received information on 175 illegal dumping cases through 311 and 911 calls, as well as from City Council requests.
In May alone, the Police Department’s new two-person unit devoted to dumping investigated 68 incidents and made five arrests. There have been 12 arrests this year.
“Pollution is a blight on neighborhoods that are already struggling,” Krasner said.
Residents can text tips to police at 215-686-TIPS (-8477) or upload photos of illegal dumping with an address by downloading the Philly311 mobile phone app or by going online to http://bit.ly/Philly311Request.