BENTON HARBOR — Benton Harbor police are taking a bite out of illegal dumping by using a variety of tools, Benton Harbor Public Safety Director Dan McGinnis said Tuesday.
Among the tools are several new stealth cameras, which have been placed strategically throughout the city.
He said the cameras so far have helped catch two of the more than 30 people caught illegally dumping tires or furniture since the beginning of the year.
Other dumpers have been caught using information provided by residents through tip411, a new app launched in June by his department.
He said the app – Benton Harbor DPS Citizen Observer, LLC tip411 – is available for download for free via Google Play Store or the iTunes App Store. The tip line is for activity within the city limits.
Another new tool is the city’s dumping hotline – 944-7929 – which residents can call if they see suspected illegal dumping.
A fourth method is by getting the state involved.
Because the tires are dumped in large batches, McGinnis said he suspects some of the surrounding garages are dumping them rather than paying the $2 to $5 fee per tire to have them properly disposed of.
Business owners are required to keep the scrap tire transportation slips they receive for properly disposing of tires.
McGinnis said he invited a state Department of Environmental Quality investigator to come to the city recently to find out where the dumped scrap tires are coming from. Business owners are required to keep the scrap tire transportation slips they receive for properly disposing of tires.
McGinnis said the investigator put three local garages on notice for not having the tire transportation slips and will do follow up work in the coming weeks.
Tire rally this week
Besides catching illegal dumpers, his department is hosting “City of Benton Harbor Tire Rally 2.0” from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday and Friday so the tires that have already been dumped can be cleaned up.
Anyone who would like to volunteer can call him at 927-8425. He said volunteers will help public works employees pick up scrap tires and transport them to Dwight P. Mitchell City Center Park to be hauled away in semi-trailers provided by DeerPath Recyclers of Dowagiac, the only licensed scrap tire hauler in the area.
McGinnis said a similar one-day rally in May got almost 1,600 tires out of the city.
His officers need help from residents to identify illegal dump sites. McGinnis said a contractor earlier this year alerted his department to a dump site behind houses and empty lots along Vineyard Avenue.
He estimated the site held 50 dumped tires, along with old mattresses and furniture.
“I’m literally standing in a sea of tires,” he said.
In most cases, he said people caught dumping are prosecuted under state law at the Berrien County Courthouse, where they face up to $800 in fines and court costs.
He said he’s doing this as part of “Operation Mayberry.”
“‘Operation Mayberry’ is not just about crime,” he said. “‘Operation Mayberry’ is – clean up our city to change the mindset of our residents to not tolerate this kind of stuff. You don’t have to tolerate drugs being sold on your corner. You don’t have to tolerate people dumping trash behind your house or dumping tires in the lot next to you. You shouldn’t have to deal with that. These are hard-working, tax-paying people, and they deserve better.”
He said he’s also doing it to save the city money. Since August 2015 the city has paid more than $115,000 to have the illegal garbage hauled away.
All the efforts are working, he said.
“We’re cleaning some areas up and for the most part, they’re staying clear of tires, at least. Which leads me to believe we’re on the right path,” he said.
Residents calling tip411 stay anonymous because the technology removes all identifying information before officers see the tips, so there is no way to identify the sender.
McGinnis said tip411 is not a substitute for 911 during emergencies, or for requests for an officer.
Contact: lwrege@TheHP.com, 932-0361, Twitter: @HPWrege