HOUSTON - Law enforcement leaders say cameras installed earlier in the year are helping them cut down on the problem of illegal dumping across the Houston area.
They say the highest number of cases they have charged have happened in Inwood Terrance, Huntington Place, and the Hardy Corridor.
Officials say the average age of someone illegally dumping trash is around 50, but they have seen people as young as 17 and as old as 80.
It’s a complaint law enforcement officials hear nearly 4,000 times every year and it's a problem they can now see for themselves thanks to a tool that has them seeing results: 25 cameras placed near illegal dumping sites in five sections of the city.
“Our command center actually watches those 24 hours a day,” said Constable Alan Rosen of Harris County Precinct One to the City of Houston’s Regulatory and Neighborhood Affairs Committee Thursday morning. “If you illegally dump, we're gonna catch you, we're gonna prosecute you."
It’s a promise Constable Rosen told the committee his agency is making good on.
Since being installed in January, he says those cameras have helped them investigate 316 cases of illegal dumping, bringing 178 total charges, with 81 cases still pending and under investigation.
The cameras track movement, moved around by authorities to wherever the problem moves. Officials say the dumping grounds aren't just ugly; they are also potential breeding grounds for mosquitoes and viruses like West Nile and Zika.
"We'd love to know how we can support you and create further funding opportunities for this,” David W. Robinson, City Council At-Large Position 2, told officials from Precinct One.
Council members said they want to spread enforcement but also education, including the use of door hangers in different languages.
Constable Rosen also thinks creative punishments could help.
"Part of the punishment phase is to wear a shirt that says ‘I am an illegal dumper’ and force that person to go out and clean the site where they dumped,” said Rosen.
Officials say the most common time for dumping is between noon and 6 p.m. Anyone caught illegally dumping and convicted faces up to 30 days in jail and a $4,000 fine.