People living in one North Houston neighborhood are fed up with illegal dumping. They want more enforcement on one street in particular they say has been an eyesore for years.
The Acres Homes street Mary Boss has called home for 62 years looks less like a neighborhood and more like a landfill.
“It’s unbearable,” said Boss. “I can smell it in the house. You can’t sit on the porch because you smellin’ all that dead stuff.”
Boss added, “They dump old dead cows, old dead dogs. In fact, I told you they had a fish down there about that big, and my puppy came back with it.”
KHOU saw the illegal dumping problem on James Franklin Street in the Acres Homes neighborhood firsthand while reporting on a story about neglected horses in 2015. Since then, Boss said cameras and police patrols made a dent, but once they left, the problem came back.
“They should have officers to patrol at night, cause like I said, most of the dumping is done at night,” said Boss.
“This disgusts me every time I come down this street and I see this trash,” said Constable Alan Rosen of Harris County Precinct One, standing on James Franklin Street on Tuesday afternoon.
Constable Rosen told KHOU that stopping the problem comes down to educating the community, getting neighbors involved and keeping up an enforcement plan he says is working.
He said dozens of undercover cameras his office has put in and moved around to catch illegal dumping helped catch around 300 dumpers in the act in 2015 and even more in 2016. That includes 38 in Acres Homes, several of those on Boss’ street alone.
“The effort is working,” said Constable Rosen. “I think we just need to spend a little more time and a little more surveillance.”
The constable said both uniformed and undercover deputies patrol this area, and many have feeds to the cameras in their cars.
“So they’re actually seeing live the illegal dumping sites and could be two or three streets away ready to arrest you for illegally dumping,” said Constable Rosen.
The city and Precinct One also launched an effort in early 2016 to clean up 600 neglected or vacant properties, starting in Acres Homes.
Steve Francis, Chief of Staff for the City of Houston’s Solid Waste Management Department, told KHOU his department has collected more than 5,000 tons of illegally dumped material and over 36,000 tires since the “Zika abatement program” started in mid-February 2016. Francis says heavy trash collection crews and Community Liaison teams who respond to illegal dumping calls also collect “tens of thousands of tons” of illegally dumped material every year.
In the meantime, residents like Marion Blakes Jr. said they’re taking cleanup of their neighborhood into their own hands.
“I’m just doing my citizens duty,” said Blakes, who drives the streets of the neighborhood looking for illegal dumping to report or clean up. “I don’t get a dime for it, and they couldn’t pay me for what I do. I just want to see my area clean as the rest of the area.”
Constable Rosen said these cameras are crucial because the District Attorney requires video evidence to prosecute illegal dumping cases. He also said those cameras have helped solve other cases, too, including a robbery case where the criminals dumped an ATM, as well as a case involving $458,000 worth of marijuana.
The constable said he’s working with the courts to make those illegal dumpers come back out and clean up as part of their probation, plea deal or punishment.