While some cities put up cameras at traffic intersections to spot motorists speeding through red lights, Springfield, Massachusetts is putting cameras in trees to catch people illegally dumping tires, mattresses, appliances, and garbage bags.
City officials gathered Tuesday at Loon Pond, once a notorious illegal dumping site, to announce plans to double the number of locations that will be monitored continuously by motion-triggered cameras as part of an ongoing campaign against blight.
Mayor Domenic Sarno said the hidden-camera program that started in the summer of 2014 will remain a priority for his administration.
" This is sending the message that we will continue to be vigilant when it comes to illegal dumping, which is just so disrespectful to the areas of the city where it is being done, " said Sarno.
The city’s parks department plans to install a pair of cameras at a total of 10 locations that will not be publically disclosed. Each camera setup costs about $800. The cameras can record at night and in daylight.
A special unit of the Springfield Police Department responsible for enforcing ordinances against litter, excessive noise, and other nuisances tracks down the alleged illegal dumpers through license plate numbers and other clues found in the surveillance photographs.
Nine people have been issued citations for illegal dumping based on the hidden camera evidence in the last eight months. Each violation carries a $300 fine and the city can also assess the cost of the cleanup, according to police department spokesman Sgt. John Delaney, who also heads up the ordinance squad.
" If you are going to dump anything don't do it in Springfield because you will be fined or even arrested," warned Delaney.
Brian Santaniello, Chairman of the Springfield Parks Commission, said illegal dumping has been a widespread problem in the city’s parks for years.
"This something we will not tolerate, we want a nice city, we want a clean city," said Santaniello. " People should not do this. It is just outrageous and will not be tolerated."
The hidden camera program also was praised at Tuesday’s announcement by neighborhood activists and members of Keep Springfield Beautiful, a group that organizes volunteers for an annual trash cleanup.
Paul Martin, secretary of Keep Springfield Beautiful, said volunteers on multiple occasions have cleaned up the wooded area around the boat launch at Loon Pond.
" Tires, pieces of furniture, televisions, are what people throw away," said Martin.
Officials stressed Springfield offers residents a bulk waste pickup service through the Department of Public Works.