Until last year, those who didn't want to pay the cost of properly disposing of their trash had little to fear from dumping their garbage on other people's property. But thanks to a city of Youngstown appropriation, grants for this year and next, and vigorous prosecution, violators of the city's anti-dumping laws can anticipate jail, fines and/or community service. The word is getting out: grime does not pay.
Human beings appear to be the only species that fouls its own nests. And clearly, some members of the species are fouler than others. But catching these dirty birds at their game hasn't been easy.
However, with a night-vision video camera, litter-control officers and a commitment to secure the maximum penalties for offenders, the enforcement program is a burgeoning success.
Having Youngstown Municipal Court Judge Elizabeth Kobly volunteering to hear the illegal dumping cases has got to be a shot in the arm for the law enforcement officers who are apprehending the dumpers.
Judge Kobly has not been hesitant to hand out stiff sentences to violators -- as long as the evidence is there. Eight cases have resulted in criminal convictions and at least seven more are pending.
At this rate, those who have turned some 100 sites on Youngstown's South and East sides into illegal dumps might be having some second thoughts about their filthy habit.
City budget hit: Between the $100,000-plus that the city spends on cleaning up the illegal dump sites and the thousands more it costs to clean up neighborhoods of the mess left by tenants who have moved or have been evicted, a big chunk is being taken out of the city budget -- money that could be used for other purposes.
Construction materials comprise much of what's being dumped in Youngstown, although three of those convicted are from Austintown and one from Edinburg, Pa. Where necessary, deputies sift through the garbage for clues to its source.
Now, too, some of those who live close to the illegal sites are cooperating with law enforcement officers to help identify offenders. Two workers at a Salt Springs Road business recently shared a $500 reward for their tip that led to the apprehension of a violator.
The less the trash, whether in illegal dumps or on city streets, the more that residents can take pride in their community. And the more pride they have, the less likely they are to tolerate their neighborhood's being turned into an eyesore.