Using Remote Surveillance, MassDEP and
City of Lawrence Target Illegal Dumping in Public Spaces
BOSTON – In a cooperative effort to combat illegal dumping in the City of Lawrence, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) installed hidden cameras in high-risk locales that captured images of multiple perpetrators who were subsequently fined, and in some cases, brought back to clean up their mess.
MassDEP worked with the Lawrence Inspectional Services to install small battery-operated digital cameras in public rights-of-way that were triggered by motion sensors. MassDEP shared its new cameras with license plate-reading technology, which has helped increase the rate of identification of dumpers at night.
“Those who selfishly dump debris in public spaces should know that you will get caught, simply because we now have the tools to put an end to this illegal practice,” said Pamela Talbot, director of MassDEP’s Environmental Strike Force.
The dumping site selected is adjacent to a new public walking trail on the Spicket River. After installing the cameras, MassDEP and the city found frequent scofflaws who dumped construction debris, tires, appliances, household garbage and furniture. Lawrence has struggled with illegal dumping, just like other urban municipalities, incurring hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer cleanup costs at several public sites.
In addition to increasing the city’s disposal costs, public works crews are being diverted from important maintenance work on roads, sewers and water lines, simply to deal with the cleanup of debris whose origin, source and content previously had been unknown.
Beginning in June 2012, two cameras were installed by the Environmental Strike Force and Lawrence Inspectional Services at the subject dumpsite. The cameras are capable of taking tens of thousands of high resolution pictures over many weeks on a single set of batteries. They are equipped with infrared night vision capability and one of the cameras is specially designed to read license plates at night.
More than a dozen incidents of dumping were captured by the cameras, with nine of the dumpers identified thus far. The dumpers were issued a minimum of a $300 citation by the City of Lawrence.
The following individuals have been identified and penalized for illegal dumping in Lawrence under this initiative:
June 8, 5:20 p.m. – Juan Ortega of 510 Lowell St., Lawrence, dumped a television.
June 22, 10:52 p.m. – Jose Nieves of 34 Emerson St., Haverhill, dumped a pickup truck full of debris.
June 27, 1:27 p.m. – Amparo Coste of 99 Oakland Ave., Methuen dumped a computer.
June 30, 11:03 a.m. – Leonel Alonso of 18 Tudor St., Lawrence dumped a mattress and a couch. He was subsequently caught by Lawrence Police dumping at another location. His truck was impounded and released upon payment of fines.
July 1, 6:12 p.m. – Jose Nieves, who dumped previously at the site, dumped a truck load of scrap wood.
July 7, 7:50 a.m. – Jaime Villa of 33 Bennington St., Lawrence, dumped old furniture.
Villa returned to the site later the same day and was observed dumping two mattresses by MassDEP personnel who were there to check the cameras.
July 9, 3:12 p.m. – Juan Torres of 14 Hampshire Rd., Methuen, dumped a couch and dresser at the site.
July 12, 9:03 a.m. – Enrique Arias of 139 Franklin St, Lawrence, dumped wood debris and a television.
Two of the more brazen incidents are shown below [a DVD of these and other incidents is available to media outlets by request].
The waste that was dumped could, in many cases, have been disposed of for free by simply contacting the Lawrence Department of Public Works or by obtaining a bulk item sticker for a nominal fee. Lawrence is in the process of upgrading its dumping bylaw and is upgrading its own camera program to catch future dumpers.
Since the start of the “Candid Camera” program in 2005, MassDEP has partnered with more than 20 municipalities at frequent illegal dumpsites. To date, the program has resulted in approximately 100 illegal dumpers being identified and fined by the communities or by MassDEP. The program continues to seek new municipal partners. Municipalities with a chronic dumpsite that they think might be a good candidate for the program, can contact the MassDEP Environmental Strike Force at 617-556-1000.
MassDEP is responsible for ensuring clean air and water, safe management and recycling of solid and hazardous wastes, timely cleanup of hazardous waste sites and spills, and the preservation of wetlands and coastal resources.