Picking up litter can boost inner city pride

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I hadn’t heard from Sel Dunlap for years when he reached me by phone on Monday.

Dunlap, 67, is a sort of spiritualist. 

Where most of us see discarded cigarette butts, food wrappers and other trash, Dunlap sees filthy spirits.

“White folks run from us because of filth and we run from each other because of filth,” Dunlap, who is an African-American, told me. 

The Vietnam War veteran and former West Sider has worked in urban development and run for public office several times. But mostly, he has devoted his efforts to trying to show that there is a connection between the litter-strewn lots and streets in some neighborhoods and the amount of crime occurring in that neighborhood.  

In 2010, Dunlap supported the city’s anti-littering amendment. In 2013, he championed Ald. Howard Brookins’ (21st) sponsorship of an ordinance that increased fines for the obnoxious behavior, even though the ordinance was actually a watered-down version of Brookins’ intentions since it did not mandate police officers tow the litterbugs’ vehicles.

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