Opinion Columns & Blogs

Editorial: City is right to get tough on scourge of illegal dumping

Besides drug deals on street corners and absentee landlords, few problems can bring down a neighborhood faster than illegal dumping of junked appliances, ratty furniture and other debris.

Sacramento city officials are right to take on this scourge. The City Council should give its go-ahead tonight for a carrot-and-stick strategy.

The carrot – a second free pickup between February and October each year of as much as 5 cubic yards of bulky garbage. City officials hope this will discourage residents from hiring cheap but unscrupulous private haulers that sometimes just dump debris illegally. While city officials say there will be no added cost, it could force homeowners to wait longer for appointments, particularly during spring cleaning in April and May.

The stick – a higher likelihood that if you’re a scofflaw, a neighbor will report you. The city is proposing to double the maximum reward to $1,000 for information leading to misdemeanor convictions, and to create a new $500 reward for tips leading to more common administrative penalties. There will be a limit of five rewards per person, totaling $2,500, in any calendar year.

Usually, a violation notice is enough to get residents to comply, either by hauling away the junk themselves, hiring a private hauler or paying the city for a pickup. If they don’t clean up within 24 hours, they can be fined as much as $25,000.

City officials also want to put more surveillance cameras in dumping “hot spots” – in North Sacramento, Oak Park, parts of south Sacramento and elsewhere – to try to catch people in the act. And early next year, the city plans to ratchet up public education efforts, including online and print ads, direct mail, social media and neighborhood events.

If all this seems a bit draconian, it’s necessary, unfortunately. In 2012-13, city crews cleaned up 7,600 piles of illegally dumped debris.

Councilman Allen Warren, who represents north Sacramento and whose own home was spoiled by an illegal garbage pile last month, says he hopes the tougher strategy will be a deterrent. “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,” he told The Bee’s Ryan Lillis.

That would be welcome in the entire city, but especially in neighborhoods where illegal dumping is the last thing they need.