Sacramento officials explore crackdown on illegal dumping

There are blocks in North Sacramento where the piles of garbage dumped illegally on the side of the road outnumber the homes.

Along Western Avenue, a desolate road bordered by railroad tracks atop a levee on one side and sparsely populated lots on the other, such piles are constantly being discovered by city crews. Alleys behind businesses and sidewalks in front of empty houses are other popular dumping grounds for old appliances and furniture.

Even the home of the area’s councilman isn’t safe. Last month, a pile of garbage was found on a street running behind Councilman Allen Warren’s home. City solid waste officials said the Hagginwood-area street is considered one of the many “hot spots” for illegal dumping in North Sacramento.

In response to persistent cases of illegal dumping, city officials are proposing a series of tougher enforcement measures to combat what Warren and others describe as a serious quality-of-life issue.

The City Council on Tuesday will debate whether to proceed with increasing the reward given to those who report illegal dumping activity, when those reports lead to the arrest and conviction of perpetrators. City staff is proposing doubling the reward, from $500 to $1,000.

Those who report dumping that leads to an administrative penalty would also be eligible for rewards of up to $500.

At the same time, city staff is proposing to provide two free pickups of bulky items for city residents between February and October. Right now, the city offers just one pickup.

Solid waste managers with the city said the extra bulk pickup will dissuade homeowners from using sketchy hauling services that often end up dumping garbage illegally.

Finally, city staff is asking to explore placing more surveillance cameras in areas where illegal dumping is persistent. In addition to North Sacramento, parts of south Sacramento and Oak Park are badly affected by dumping.

“We have a lot of underdeveloped land in North Sacramento and some of these people see that as an invitation to take discarded materials and dump it in places where they think people aren’t paying attention,” Warren said. “I think this will send the signal that we are paying attention.”

City waste collection crews cleaned up 7,600 piles of illegally dumped refuse during the 2012-13 fiscal year, said Steve Harriman, manager of the city’s recycling and solid waste division.

“We’re rewarding bad behavior and sending the message that if you dump your stuff here, the city will come and get it,” Harriman said. “From our perspective it’s a challenge because if you don’t pick it up, it creates a health and safety issue. We’re hoping to cut into it and send the message that it’s not OK.”

With the city’s resources dedicated to proactive enforcement limited, Harriman and Warren said the increased rewards – along with a public awareness campaign – will have an impact.

“We spend a lot of time and resources on continuing to clean up our communities,” Warren said. “Once you catch a few people and it becomes known that we’re serious about it, we’re going to see a decrease in this activity.”