Penn Hills to use cameras to catch and prosecute illegal dumpers
Penn Hills officials hope three new cameras will help catch offenders at one of the municipality's many illegal dump sites.
Planning Director Chris Blackwell said his department applied for a grant last year from Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful that would allow the municipality to place cameras at one site to help catch dumpers in the act.
The grant was accepted in January and Department of Public Works employees will be trained on how to use the cameras soon, he said.
“Litter is an ongoing problem. It causes us a lot of concern,” Blackwell said. “The only way to combat it is to clean it up.”
That's exactly what the Department of Public Works has been doing, Superintendent Scott Shepard said. But cleanups are costly.
“One crew earlier this spring went out to the Lemington area and filled up a whole dumpster in half a day,” Shepard said.
The municipality's garbage removal company, Republic Services, which also provides public works with dumpsters, picks up full dumpsters when the department fills them.
The municipality's contract with Republic allows for up to five free dumpsters a year but Penn Hills uses anywhere from 10 to 20 per year, Shepard said.
“It's about $500 per dumpster,” he said.
Illegal Dump Free PA, a program of Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful, will provide the cameras. According to its website, there are about 6,500 illegal dump sites across the state. Since 2013, the program has loaned concealable cameras to municipalities with the option of buying them at the end of a three-month term.
The program “was instrumental in prosecution and convictions in Allegheny, Armstrong and Elk counties,” its website reports.
Penn Hills officials declined to specify where the cameras would be placed because they hope to use culprits caught on camera as examples.
“The program is designed to catch people. It'll deter others by catching one or two and making it very public,” Shepard said.
Faith Milazzo, who started an anti-littering group in Penn Hills, thinks the cameras are a great idea to help identify people dumping their garbage.
“I suggested the idea last fall. I'm not sure if that's why they're doing it, but, obviously, we have several (dumping) areas,” she said.
According to Allegheny CleanWays, an affiliate of Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful, there are more than 50 illegal dump sites in Penn Hills, eight of which have been cleaned up. Some sites are located on empty lots in neighborhoods and others span portions of residential streets, like Golden Rod Way and Pershing Street.
Most sites are located in the municipality's west end, with a concentration in the Lincoln Park neighborhood.
Blackwell said each camera will capture a different angle.
“One watches the front of the vehicle, one watches the license plate, the third watches that the camera is not stolen,” he said. “These cameras will send an email to (Shepard's) computer to monitor, so they can know.”