Cleaning up the city's act Police: A new 25-member uniformed force will soon have the power to fine residents for sanitation violations that formerly resulted in warnings.

November 13, 1997|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

About noon yesterday, Capt. Charles White and Sgt. Derrick Purvey of the city's new sanitation police found respect.

In the hunt for a trash violator, they pulled their cruiser over to the curb in the 2000 block of Wilkens Ave.

Their car had the look of law enforcement: an unadorned dark blue. White and Purvey wore badges on their uniforms, which feature green pants with black trim.

As they emerged from the car, the few people present jumped and gave the officers looks that seemed to say, "I didn't do anything."

"It will help us do our jobs," Purvey, 30, said of the uniforms. "People will respect the uniform."

Purvey and White began their rounds yesterday as part of a new police force -- created by the departments of health, public works, housing and police -- that is charged with enforcing sanitation ordinances.

In the past, people did not pay much attention to citations for unsanitary practices, said White and Purvey, both of whom came from the Bureau of Solid Waste.

Those citations amounted to warnings -- there was no penalty for zTC ignoring them. So even though he stands 6 feet 5 inches tall and weighs nearly 300 pounds, Purvey said, people responded to him in one of three ways:

"People would say, 'Yeah right, we'll clean it up,' " Purvey said. "Some people just said, 'You can't do nothing to me,' and some people laughed. They thought we were wasting time and the taxpayers' money. They didn't appreciate what we were trying to do."

The goal yesterday, and until Jan. 1, will be to educate residents about their responsibilities. After that, Purvey and White, 50, will have punitive powers.

The sanitation police will then be able, without warning, to impose fines of $25 to $250. They will focus mostly on residents who have trash out of containers or trash outside on days when there is no pickup but also will look for such things as violations of building, zoning, fire, food vending, water, sewer and transportation codes.

White said the deterrence factor helped him decide to join the sanitation police. "I was writing up warnings, but it was only a scare tactic," he said. "To be told something is a lot different than to be made to do it because of fines."

A violator who fails to pay a fine or dispute it in District Court could be arrested.

White, Purvey and the rest of the 25 sanitation police officers will be busy, if certain blocks in Southwest Baltimore are any indication. In the middle of the 2000 block of Wilkens Ave. yesterday, a trash bag, hanging open on an outdoor faucet, contained a disposable coffee cup and assorted empty bottles: orange soda, gin and malt liquor. Another trash bag sat on the ground next to it.

Behind the block, between Wilkens Avenue and Christian Street, three dogs roamed an alley where some trash bags were on the ground and some hung from fences. There was trash on the ground from bags the dogs had chewed.

There were also trash bags in the alley the 1100 block of Washington Blvd. in Pigtown, but but the eye-catcher was the old black BMW in a back yard, wheels rusted and weeds rising from beneath its tires.

White and Purvey checked off numerous violations in the yard, starting with the car. Elevated vegetation, check. Sixty-gallon drum, check. Then there were the swing set, the tricycle, the bicycle and the wicker basket, all overdue for a trip to the landfill.

Judging from the swing set, White guessed that there were children living in the house but added, "Would you let your child play in this back yard?"

"We've gotten people to do the right thing, but there are a lot of people who don't care," said Purvey. "I saw the waste, and I know where the problem areas are."

The toughest part of the education effort will be convincing residents that they need containers with tight lids, the officers said. The laws on trash containment are known to few residents, even though they have been on the books since 1918, White said.

Another complication, White and Purvey said, is the city's difficulty cleaning up its own messes, such as demolished rowhouses.

"People will say, 'You're talking to me, but what about those houses,' " White said.

But Purvey said the sanitation police can't worry about the city's housing agencies.

"If you pay taxes on this house, you have to worry about the contents of this house," Purvey said. "If you're doing what you're supposed to do, this city will be clean."

Pub Date: 11/13/97

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