March 5, 2013

Addressing Illegal Dumping

Illegal dumping plagues many areas of San Mateo County but perhaps none worse than the unincorporated area of North Fair Oaks. Within that neighborhood of some 15,000 residents there are mostly deserted areas that repeatedly receive illegally dropped mattresses, sofas and household junk.

The problem has increased in recent years and it's become a significant community issue. To date, however, no sustainable solutions have been found but it's time to address the problem and implement a workable solution that will keep our communities junk free.

In my research on this important topic, there are six key "take-aways" from best practices in the U.S. on the subject of illegal dumping. Those six keys include:

 1. Political Buy-In Planning - support must be provided by local gov staff and this includes having enough money available to implement and operate the program plus having sufficient staff to do the work.

 2. Management Structure - Common in this area are the involvement of law enforcement and other gov agencies - and all need good communications.

 3. Education - Critical for success. Allows for public buy in and notification. There are multiple audiences and they should be targeted with clear messages like "STOP TRASHING OUR PENINSULA." Hotlines are essential.

4. Enforcement and Prosecution - Illegal dumpers must face real threat of being caught and punished.

5. Clean Up - cleanup of existing dumpsites is integral and methods for keeping sites clean include signs, lighting, barriers, education and surveillance. Funds can be available through dumping fines.

6. Program Administration - Dumpsites should be mapped, data for number of complaints and cases prosecuted maintained and program evaluation are important components.

Our challenge is how to craft these six areas into a workable policy that effectively deals with the issue of illegal dumping.

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