Using the night as cover, illegal dumpers have been getting away for years with marring some of Baltimore's most secluded -- though public -- areas with rusted refrigerators, used tires and old sofas.
But now, the dumpers are getting dumped on -- courtesy of a zealous mayoral task force whose mission is to clean up Baltimore.
Along with police, members of the Mayor's Illegal Dumping Task Force will rummage through the garbage looking for clues to trace the owners. The news delights city residents who are outraged by the amount of dumping in their neighborhoods.
Task force member Steve McCullen says he has made significant progress on one dumping case this summer.
Police are taking Darryl Cole Sr. of the 3400 block of Gwynn Falls Way to court on charges he unloaded furniture and other household items near Leakin Park.
"This is the first case that we have really pursued," said McCullen, who works for the Department of Recreation and Parks.
Cole is charged with littering under city law. He is accused of illegally disposing of more than 500 pounds of furniture and household trash June 11. If convicted, he could serve five years in jail and pay a $25,000 fine, although such harsh punishment is unlikely. He is scheduled to appear in District Court this month.
Cole has indicated in court papers that he plans to plead not guilty. He did not return phone calls to his residence.
McCullen got a tip in June from a jogger who said that he had seen three men dumping furniture and other items in the 4000 block of Windsor Ave. near Leakin Park from a Ford truck.
McCullen alerted a police officer, Joseph Fioravante, and they sifted through the garbage.
"We were out there, I guess, up to an hour," McCullen said. "There were all kinds of debris out there. In some trash bags, we found some names and addresses. It was the only way we could get a clue."
According to a document authorities filed in District Court, Cole was a subcontractor for a hauling company that agreed to get rid of household items from a residence in the 400 block of Kirkwood Drive that was being taken over by a bank.
"So many people are dumping and nothing is being done about it," said McCullen, who hopes that a conviction in the Leakin Park case will show that the city is serious about illegal dumpers.
Carol K. Coleman, who drives by Leakin Park almost every day, says the city needs to work harder at catching illegal dumpers.
"Every time you drive through the park, you see it: trash, refrigerators, sofas, you name it," Coleman said. "It is awful, ugly. Very depressing."
Many community organizations have complained to the city and set up watchdog groups to check for illegal dumping.
The task force, composed of representatives from city agencies, wants fines for dumping increased and wants to find new ways to catch dumpers.
"We are looking into surveillance and hidden cameras," McCullen said.
Donald Torres, assistant commissioner for environmental health, estimates that it costs the city about $2 million a year to clean up illegally dumped materials. He said that Leakin Park, sections of Russell Street, railroads and areas under interstate overpasses are popular spots.
"I would characterize dumping as a major problem," Torres said. Aside from the cleanup costs, "it injures kids and is a breeding ground for vermin and rats, and contributes to the reduction of the quality of life in the neighborhoods."
Mostly, people dump illegally in secluded places to save money. But the city has five legal dump sites. No fee is charged if the items are taken to the dump site by automobile. If they are hauled by truck, a $5 fee is charged.
"I'm an environmentalist, and we talk about cleaning up the city," McCullen said. "I like the woods and the greenery, and I hate to see it defaced like this. It is a real turnoff to go to a public park and see trash in the little wilderness areas we have in the city."
Five dump stations in Baltimore accept burnable and nonburnable trash. The stations accept standard pickup trucks of up to 7,000 pounds gross vehicle weight for a flat fee of $5 per load. The stations do not accept cash. Coupons must be purchased at 417 E. Fayette St., Room 100.
These stations operate from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.:
Northwestern Sanitation Yard, 2840 Sisson St., 396-6070.
Western Sanitation Yard, 701 Reedbird St., 396-3367.
Eastern & Northeastern Sanitation Yard, 6101 Bowleys Lane, 396-9950.
Northwest Transfer Station, 5030 Reisterstown Road, 396-0422.
Quarantine Road Landfill, Hawkins Point, 396-3772.
Pub Date: 9/03/96