Effective outreach and education increases the success of the four essential elements of an illegal dumping program: Prevention, Abatement, Cleanup, and Enforcement. The messages for each group are distinct but important. The objectives are to discourage illegal dumping and provide options for convenient collection/disposal.
- Practitioners/Decision-Makers: Awareness of, and knowledge about, the illegal dumping programs.
- General Public: Make it easy to access services and do the right thing.
- Illegal Dumpers: Let them know it is a crime and they will be punished.
Whether a local jurisdiction’s illegal dumping program is centralized in one lead agency or involves service delivery by several agencies, the employees must understand their roles, authorities, and how they interface with all others involved in the delivery of services. To deliver effective program services, the practitioner needs to have the knowledge and skills to function in many areas, including the following:
- Local agencies responsible for program delivery.
- Local program coordination and access.
- Programs and services available for abatement and cleanup.
- Local and State illegal dumping and/or nuisance codes.
- Tracking and monitoring illegal dumping.
- Investigation and prosecution procedures.
- Prosecution processes.
- Outreach strategy and messages.
Task Forces or Other Community Groups
Both are excellent outreach and education partners. There are numerous county and city illegal dumping enforcement task forces (Keep America Beautiful, Antelope Valley) and these organizations can play a critical support role. They help in identifying the problem and developing community support for solutions, and in fostering cooperation in all aspects of the illegal dumping program. Task forces generally have broad representation of a diverse set of entities, including representatives from the lead local government agency, related city/county departments, State agencies, community organizations, environmental organizations, schools, businesses, and interested individuals.
The task force doesn’t replace the lead agency staff role in implementing the details of an illegal dumping program. However, ideas and recommendations developed by a task force often have more community buy in than ones developed solely by staff. The task force can take the lead in community cleanup activities, easing the burden on staff to coordinate and support events.
Illegal dumping is a crime of convenience done for economic gain, and often by repeat offenders. Most people want to do the right thing. The public needs to know how to conveniently and properly dispose of unwanted materials, particularly big items like furniture, tires, appliances and electronics. The public also needs to know who to call when they see illegal dumping or if a site needs to be cleaned up.
Individuals and Businesses
Most agencies use a variety of media to communicate with the public, including Internet/web pages, direct mail, door hangers, bill stuffers, messages on public vehicles, radio, newsletters, refrigerator magnets, etc. Research shows that how information is presented, particularly when a behavior change is needed, can improve its effectiveness. The message (including language) and medium varies depending upon the purpose: from seeking volunteers for community cleanup days to notifying the public about collection events, fines for illegal dumping, or how to report an incident.
Communities use various styles and colors for signage. The sign may focus on illegal dumping as a crime and present information boldly in black, red and white with a message of “See It, Report it! And Stop It” or “Stop! It’s Illegal…” from a sign posted in windows of used oil collection facilities in Los Angeles. San Bernardino subtly conveys the criminal aspect subtly through the use of a logo that resembles a sheriff’s badge with five-pointed star. Riverside cautions business ownersPDF download to know where their waste is going.
Most communities utilize either a web-based complaint reporting system or a telephone reporting systemPDF download for the public to report an illegal dumping action in progress or a site that needs to be cleaned up. Some offer a reward to increase the use of such hotlines or tip lines. The City of Sacramento used “door-hanger” signs to inform residents of its illegal dumping program and how to report an incident. Published research shows that those who know how to report an illegal dumping incident were five times more likely to do something about it.
Property owners in particular need to know what to do if they have illegal dumping occurring on their property. If there isn’t a hotline, the property owner can contact law enforcement and/or the local illegal dumping program that may assist in resolving their issue.
Outreach activities to local primary schools vary depending on local resources. Kern County schools use a puppet show video to educate children that illegal dumping is not an acceptable practice, and can result in violators, along with their family members, being ordered to participate in community cleanup days. Contests can spread the message about illegal dumping and littering, and help promote groups that take the lead in city/county cleanup days. The students, after learning about illegal dumping through outreach programs, can share the information with their family and/or friends.
Because illegal dumping is a crime often committed at night, it is difficult to catch and prosecute illegal dumpers and the crimes usually goes unpunished. Illegal dumpers know they probably won’t get caught, so they continue to dump. Efforts to reach out to these violators must focus on the crime and the consequences of illegal dumping.
Examples of signage and outreach include campaigns from Sacramento County “See It, Report it! And Stop It!” and Los Angeles County Stop! Illegal… to Abandon used Oil”.
Signs can specify fines and penalties or indicate that the area is under surveillance. Riverside County’s website posts a sign with the header “WARNING: Illegal Dumping is a CrimePDF download” in bold letters.
In summary, outreach to illegal dumpers must stress:
- It is a crime.
- There are consequences–fines and jail time.
- Violators will be caught and prosecuted.
Research on illegal dumping indicates that publicizing illegal dumping convictions can be an effective tool for discouraging future incidents. Many jurisdictions work with the news media to publicize illegal dumping convictions.
For more information contact: Illegal Dumping, IllegalDumping@calrecycle.ca.gov