BENTON HARBOR — Illegal dumpers beware: You will be caught and prosecuted.
That was the message from Benton Harbor Public Safety Director Dan McGinnis on Friday during a day-long drive to collect hundreds of scrap tires that have been dumped throughout the city.
He said a complaint in the past has been that once a site is cleaned up, illegal dumpers fill it up, again, within a few weeks.
That won’t happen this time.
“We have stealth cameras we’re placing around the city to watch common dump sites,” he said while taking a break from tossing tires into the trailer.
During Friday’s Tire Rally, there was a steady flow of city public works employees and residents bringing scrap tires to Dwight P. Mitchell City Center Park to be hauled away in two semi-trailers provided by DeerPath Recyclers of Dowagiac.
McGinnis said each trailer holds up to 1,000 tires. By the time all the tires are collected, he said he expects to fill both trailers and to order a third one.
“We need to improve the quality of living of our residents, and we can’t do that if we have trash everywhere,” he said. “Our residents deserve a clean city.”
McGinnis said city workers had already collected 101 scrap tires Thursday. Another 100 tires were dropped off within the first hour of the rally Friday.
The operation was paid for by a countywide grant from the state. The Berrien County Road Department held a tire recycling event earlier in the month. More events are expected to be announced this summer throughout Berrien County.
McGinnis announced in March that his department was kicking off Project Clean Neighborhood. He said anyone caught dumping will be charged with littering and can receive up to an $800 fine.
Since March, he said 22 people have been arrested for illegal dumping.
“I arrested two of them myself,” he said.
On hand to volunteer was Jerry Edwards, who is running unopposed for the Second Ward City Commission seat this fall.
“It’s been part of my passion to turn this city around,” he said. “Cleanliness promotes a positive attitude in both residents and visitors. It shows that we’re not just laying down and rolling over.”
Soon after he moved to Benton Harbor in 2014, he founded the Bracken Edwards Youth Organization Umbrella (BEYOU), which has been cleaning and improving Hall Park ever since.
Also helping out was city Commissioner Ron Singleton. He said cleaning up the mess and catching the dumpers is personal.
“I was a victim,” he said Friday during a break. “I have a few properties and several of them got dumped on. I was responsible for cleaning up someone else’s mess.”
He said that as chairman of the city’s Public Safety and Recreation Committee, he helped make catching the illegal dumpers a priority.
“I believe in not just talking about it, but doing something about it,” he said.
Contact: lwrege@TheHP.com, 932-0361, Twitter: @HPWrege