Illegal Dumpers Beware: City of Philadelphia Is Now Watching You

The city already picks up 2 million pounds of illegally dump garbage each year. Officials promise more surveillance cameras and more criminal charges to combat the problem

What to Know

  • Fifty new surveillance cameras will be in place by the end of 2019, at locations known for illegal dumping.
  • More criminal prosecutions will be sought against illegal dumpers, the district attorney's office said.
  • The public's help in combating illegal dumping will be key, officials said in announcing stronger enforcement.

Illegal dumping criminal cases in Philadelphia total 175 in the last five months, according to city officials, who vowed to increase their diligence in cracking down on contractors and others who dispose of bulk items and construction debris by dropping the refuse in empty lots.

Philadelphia is going after the illegal dumpers by using cameras installed in locations where bulk garbage has notoriously appeared time and again, Mayor Jim Kenney and Streets Department officials said Wednesday.

“Construction debris and other discarded items such as mattresses, tires and televisions are dumped in places like vacant lots, desolate corridors and under bridges,” the city said in a statement. “Illegal dumping cameras have been installed in remote areas like these that are prone to illegal dumping. Each camera costs $4,000 and is equipped with a high dynamic range to provide enhanced visibility for bright and dark areas. They have a rotating lens.”

Fifty new cameras will be in place by the end of 2019.

The city also is dedicating police detectives to the cause. Police Commissioner Richard Ross has assigned investigators specificially to short dumping and other environmental crimes, according to Deputy Commissioner Dennis Wilson.

“When the Streets Department began working with the Police Department and the Office of Data Digital Management last year to install cameras targeting illegal dumping, the goal was to catch offenders in the act,” Streets Commissioner Carlton Williams said. “We are proud to see our efforts have paid off in the enforcement and prosecution of several cases.”

Surveillance video showing some still-uncaught dumpers in the act was released Wednesday by the city, which hopes the public will help track down the perpetrators.

The public will be crucial to helping decrease illegal dumping, officials said.

The first step in many investigations, they said, is receiving a 3-1-1 tip. Residents can call 3-1-1 or upload photos and exact locations to the Philly311 mobile app. Residents can also supply information through the Philly311 website.

District Attorney Larry Krasner vowed to dedicate more effort and resources to the dumping problem that has contributed to long-held perceptions that Philadelphia is not a clean city.

“Unlike previous administrations that treated this crime as a summary offense, my office is taking illegal dumping seriously,” Krasner said. “We cannot arrest our way out of this problem, but we can send a message that it will no longer be tolerated.”

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