Mayor Rahm Emanuel is poised to drop the other shoe in his plan to use surveillance cameras to nail “fly-dumpers” who turn city streets and sidewalks and vacant lots into trash heaps.
At Wednesday’s City Council meeting, he plans to introduce a companion ordinance that includes a nearly 10-fold increase in the fines for fly-dumping, the longstanding practice of leaving waste on public or private property to escape disposal fees.
Instead of a maximum fine of $3,500 for repeat offenders, big dumpers captured repeatedly by soon-to-be-installed surveillance cameras will face a $30,000 fine, and even higher fines for hazardous liquid waste.
Security cameras previously disclosed by the Chicago Sun-Times will be installed in areas across the city where fly-dumping is a chronic problem as a prelude to the hefty fines, the mayor said.
“Today, we are taking another step toward ensuring that the children and families of Chicago have safe, clean and pollution-free spaces to live, work and play,” Emanuel was quoted as saying in a press release. “To those who have been using Chicago as their personal dump, we say: dispose of your waste properly or we will make sure you clean up your mess and pay the penalty.”
Dr. Julie Morita, the city’s health commissioner, said environmental inspectors have been aggressively enforcing existing law, “But the cameras and fine increases will give us new tools to assure our residents’ health and to protect public and private property.”
Last year, the Department of Streets and Sanitation completed almost 4,000 fly-dumping cleanups, which generated over 32,000 tons for disposal. At $48 per ton, less fly-dumping will amount to real disposal savings.
The Health Department also had “several large cleanups in the last two years,” one of which included 121,000 cubic yards of crushed concrete dumped on vacant land.
The dumper was required to pay a hefty fine and bankroll the cleanup.
Fly-dumping of everything from construction debris to barrels of hazardous materials can cause land, air and water, attract rats and create a breeding ground for mosquitoes carry the West Nile Virus, officials said.
“Every year we waste money to remove debris that has been intentionally left in vacant lots by fly-dumpers,” Streets and Sanitation Commissioner Charles Williams was quoted as saying. “These cameras will make for another added efficiency to our taxpayers by not only deterring the practice, but also providing a better way to apprehend and ticket offenders as fly dumping is historically done at night or in low-traffic areas.”
The Sun-Times reported this summer that surveillance cameras, already used to discourage Chicago motorists from speeding and running red lights, would also be put to work to deter “nuisance crimes” like graffiti and fly-dumping.
The Department of Streets and Sanitation has awarded a $98,557 contract to QStar Technology LLC of Torrance, California, that calls for the installation of the a “crime deterrent system.”
The city intends to purchase 15 motion-detecting camera units over a one-year period and place them in neighborhoods “where nuisance crimes are prevalent as a means of deterrent and/or monitoring” illegal activity, bid documents state.
The crime deterrent systems must be moveable and solar-powered, mountable on light poles and buildings and have a minimum operating range of 100 feet.
They must be “tamper-resistant to bullets, harsh weather conditions and vandalism” and equipped with a “warning light indicator and customizable voice warning message.”
The city is further demanding a digital resolution of at least 18 mega-pixels with the ability to download photos and capture daytime and nighttime images and reflective license plates.
The 15 surveillance cameras must also have the ability to record voices for a minimum of 14 seconds.
Streets and Sanitation personnel plan to review the images on a daily basis to find culprits “through license plates and other identifiers,” officials said.