Stop illegal dumping Change attitudes: Is littering a reflection of what residents think of their city?

September 05, 1996

BALTIMORE ISN'T as clean as it should be. Especially beyond the tourist-attractive realm of the Inner Harbor and downtown that gets extra attention from privately paid sanitation crews. City workers have improved a number of areas with "Clean Sweep" days that target some of the filthier neighborhoods. But no matter how much sanitation workers do, it's clear that until people's attitudes change it won't be enough.

Attitudes deserve a lot of the blame for the extremely high amount of illegal dumping that occurs in Baltimore. The city has five legal dump sites where most trash can be discarded at no cost. If the amount of trash or household items to be thrown away requires the use of a truck to haul it, the dumping charge is only $5 a load. Yet so many people leave trash, broken-down appliances and old furniture at the first vacant lot they find that it costs the city $2 million a year to keep those areas clean.

Better enforcement can have some impact on this expensive crime. Toward that end, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke has created an Illegal Dumping Task Force that is working with the police to prosecute suspects they identify by rummaging through the trash that is left behind. These litterers could be sentenced to as much as five years in jail and a $25,000 fine. Punishment probably doesn't have to be that severe to get most culprits to change their behavior. They're primarily guilty of sloth, too lazy to haul their trash to a legal dump site.

Increased surveillance would help at the most frequently used illegal dumping grounds, including Leakin Park, sections of Russell Street and almost anywhere beneath an interstate overpass. The police are too busy for trash stakeouts. But anyone can write down the license-plate numbers of suspects.

Residents must assume more responsibility for keeping their neighborhoods clean. Not only by monitoring illegal dump sites, but by taking the time to explain to a child why he shouldn't drop even a candy wrapper on the sidewalk. Changing attitudes must begin at that level.

Pub Date: 9/05/96

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