Bugging the litterbugs

Published 10:09 pm Friday, December 18, 2009

Suffolk police soon will start cracking down on litterbugs, the city announced recently.

The Suffolk Police Department will increase its surveillance of motorists littering and popular illegal dumping sites beginning Jan. 1, launching a Litter Law Enforcement Campaign. State code restricts people from dumping any sort of trash or garbage on public property.

“The only way we can maintain and keep the city clean and beautiful is to take it upon ourselves to put trash in its place,” said Hattie Lester, litter control coordinator for the city. “We shouldn’t think it’s somebody else’s responsibility to clean it up.”

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Litter is everybody’s problem, Lester added. The Keep America Beautiful organization estimates that cleanup and prevention programs cost American taxpayers $11.5 billion each year — not counting the costs of decreased property values, decreased commerce and tourism and health effects.

“It costs money to clean up litter,” Lester said. “You’re not going to want to put your business in a place where there’s litter. It just hurts everything.”

Suffolk Chief of Police Thomas Bennett has committed to the program, according to a statement in a press release.

“This campaign is designed to encourage citizens to abide by city and state laws governing littering violations,” Bennett said. “Our officers will be placing additional emphasis on these violations during January.”

One of the first “Rules of Littering,” according to Keep America Beautiful, is “litter attracts litter.” If a person sees litter somewhere, they feel it is acceptable for them to litter as well, Lester said.

Eventually, Lester hopes increased education and personal responsibility will make enforcement programs unnecessary.

“We want people to recognize the importance of doing it on their own, instead of enforcing the law,” Lester said. “Just put trash in the trashcan.”

An increased number of recycling drives — including one set for 10 a.m. to noon today at the city’s drop-off location near Chuckatuck — help contribute to decreased litter on the roads.

“Recycling drives in general tend to help with just reducing waste in general,” Lester said. “If you reduce what you throw away and reuse it, then recycling is a plus for everybody.”

Lester encouraged neighborhood cleanups and adopt-a-street programs as a way to foster community ownership of the litter problem. For help organizing such a program, call Lester at 514-7604 or email her at hlester@city.suffolk.va.us.