The foundation or framework for effective enforcement are State and local illegal dumping laws and local ordinances that regulate waste management and prohibit illegal dumping. Ordinances, permits, and licenses are only effective if they are enforced and offenders are prosecuted. Without an active enforcement program, illegal dumpers are unlikely to change their behavior and the community will not see a reduction in illegal dumping.

Illegal dumping enforcement is action taken against those responsible for illegal dumping. Enforcement actions include administrative actions, civil prosecutions and criminal prosecutions. To be effective, there must be sufficient staff resources, trained enforcement officials, clear lines of authority, timely prosecution, and support from the judicial system.

Staff Resources

Dedicated staff that have the appropriate authority and training are essential for a comprehensive enforcement program. Personnel can be from the local police or sheriff’s departments, code enforcement, or other governmental departments. A peace officer’s power of arrest can be critical for timely action. Staff do not have to be identified as an illegal dumping enforcement officer, but the enforcement activity should be included in the job specifications.

Public Officers

Existing law provides that certain public officers may exercise the powers of arrest during their work, if they receive a course in the exercise of those powers. In 2006 AB 1688 amended Penal Code 830.7 to include illegal dumping enforcement officers if they complete specified portions of the Peace Officers Standards Training (POST) curriculum. The City of Los Angeles has a number of public works employees serving in this capacity, which minimizes the need to request police assistance when involved with enforcement actions.

There is no legal prohibition to public officers carrying firearms by PC 830.7. It is a local decision whether to arm or not arm public officers. There are several officers authorized by the various subsections of PC 830.7 that do carry firearms. For example, campus officers under PC 830.7(b) are often armed.

Illegal Dumping Enforcement Officers

Regardless of the civil service classification or the department, it is essential that the illegal dumping enforcement officer perform most, if not all, of the following duties identified in New Mexico’s How to Establish and Operate an Illegal Dumping Prevention and Cleanup Program:

  • Educate the public
  • Educate other law enforcement officers about illegal dumping
  • Respond to illegal dumping complaints
  • Investigate illegal dumping crime scenes
  • Patrol areas known for illegal dumping activities
  • Testify in court
  • Conduct surveillance of suspected criminal activity
  • Obtain and serve subpoenas
  • Makes arrests
  • Interview suspects
  • Remain knowledgeable about applicable laws

Enforcement Teams

The City of Vallejo has developed the IDEAL Vallejo program, or Illegal Dumping Enforcement Against Litter, that involves random, remote video surveillance along with patrol, enforcement, and cleanup of major illegal dumpsites. Trying to catch people in the act, the City encourages residents to report using a special phone or email that’s monitored nearly around the clock. Using SeeClickFix, residents can report illegal dumping after the fact as well. The enforcement program is part of the Vallejo Police Department and collaborates with their City Attorney and Public Works Department.

Documentation Tools and Resources to Support Enforcement

In order to build a case, it is important to identify (if possible) the individuals responsible for illegal dumping. Various surveillance and investigation methods can aid in providing documentation of sufficient quality and quantity to and prosecute offenders.

Hot Spot Surveys

Data management systems can be used to locate and map properties that are frequent recipients of illegally dumped materials. These hot spots are then scheduled for increased surveillance and enforcement actions. A GIS-based system enables the administering agency to use overlays with the mapping system to provide overlays of water bodies, roadways, residences that share common ground with the illegal dump sites.

Hot Lines or Tip Lines

Los Angeles County has a tip line the public can call to report illegal dumping. After a series of complaints about after-hours illegal dumping at donation collection centers, the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s office, in cooperation with local law enforcement agencies, increased enforcement of illegal dumping at donation collection centers. To launch the program, the office issued a press release putting illegal dumpers on notice.

Reward Programs (combined with hotlines)

Reward programs can increase use of hotlines and acknowledge the important role citizens play in the legal process. Since the launch of a Sacramento County program, hundreds of calls eligible for a $250 reward have been received, and 49 citations have been issued. The City of Sacramento and Shasta County both offer a $500 reward to anyone furnishing information which results in an arrest and conviction. San Bernardino County offers rewards up to $1,000.

Surveillance Systems/Cameras

Although surveillance video systems can be used for prevention, standards for evidence and prosecution need to be identified prior to usage if they are to be used in enforcement. Some available system features include continuous filming of a site, motion- or sound-activated digital or video filming, sound recording systems, systems that provide a light flash when activated, and systems that download directly or via telemetry to laptop computers.

The Enforcement Program Subcommittee created a Camera/Surveillance Systems Comparison Sheet, Camera/Surveillance Systems Strategies & Best Practices document, and a Camera/Surveillance Systems Google Groups Forum to aid discussions/Q&A. Resources to be used in conjunction with this webpage. (if needed, request access: IllegalDumping@calrecycle.ca.gov)

Camera-Based Enforcement Strategies presentation available.

In some counties, such as San Bernardino, surveillance is a major part of the strategy to combat illegal dumping. In others, it represents a pilot project launched with grant funds. Sonoma County used a CalRecycle grant to install motion-detector cameras at various sites to catch illegal dumping. Sonoma County also installed high-resolution surveillance cameras at six roadside hotspots. The six solar-powered units are mounted in vandalism-resistant boxes and capture crisp images from a range of up to 100 feet. County road crews responsible for cleaning dump sites monitor the cameras and remotely download images to a laptop computer. License plate numbers and violators’ faces are easy to see, and the photos are combined with other evidence to form a criminal case. The 24-hour surveillance cameras are trained on the dumping areas and do not photograph passing cars or pedestrians. Letters are sent to residents living within a quarter-mile of the camera locations, advising them of the program.

  • Equipment for Surveillance: CalRecycle has entered into an interagency agreement with the California Air Resources Board (ARB) to purchase and install high-tech video surveillance equipment to monitor waste tire dumping at locations specified by CalRecycle. The agreement authorizes the ARB to purchase, construct, maintain, and deploy equipment to be used for surveillance at various sites statewide.
  • California Highway Patrol (CHP) Aerial Surveillance and Checkpoint Partnership: CalRecycle staff continues to investigate aerial photographs of possible illegal waste tire disposal sites submitted by the CHP as part of the Checkpoint Partnership. Work conducted by the CHP is being done under an Interagency Agreement with CalRecycle. In addition, the CHP, along with CalRecycle staff, have also set up checkpoints to monitor whether waste tire haulers are complying with the waste tire hauler registration and manifesting regulations.

Sting Operations

Sacramento County used a CalRecycle grant to conduct several illegal dumping sting operations. These operations were coordinated by the Code Enforcement Division and will be a combination of enforcement and community awareness. The events will, in general, consist of staging specific locations where refuse needs to be hauled away, either from a vacant lot or in cooperation with a willing landowner.

Administrative Actions (Orders and Fines)

Local jurisdictions are finding that administrative law procedures are an effective and efficient tool to obtain monetary settlements and the timely abatement of illegal dumping. Fines in some jurisdictions increase significantly for multiple convictions and are more severe if illegal dumping involves commercial quantities.

Administering Agencies with Fines/Settlement Authority for Solid Waste

Several local jurisdictions have adopted the Butte County Illegal Dumping Codes (Section 49-4) that provide for the issuance of a notice to correct to an individual who has been identified as the responsible party. They are required to provide a receipt for proper disposal of the material and payment of an administrative fee to have the notice dismissed. Violators who do not respond to the notice are subject to prosecution, however most violators are complying without further action. This process requires the option of a hearing for those who wish to challenge the notice to correct. The advantages of utilizing this type of authority are:

  • Timely abatement of the illegal dumping
  • Revenue to support the program
  • A rapid resolution to the problem
  • An effective implementation of desired behavioral changes
  • Reduces the load on the judicial prosecution system

Administrative Law Judge

Local jurisdictions may utilize the administrative law judge process to handle major illegal dumping cases and/or serve as the appeal body for administrative citations. In addition to determining the guilt or innocence of the individual cited, the administrative law judge can impose fines over and above the administrative costs, can determine conditions of settlement, and can impose community work hours on the violator. Decisions can be appealed to a Superior Court. The advantages of utilizing this type of authority are:

  • Major cases can be handled outside of the judicial prosecution system.
  • Generation of larger monetary settlements that can go to program support.
  • Quicker resolution to the problem.

Judicial Prosecution

Although many illegal dumping cases can be resolved through the administrative process, illegal dumping programs need to have the ability to use the judicial process if the local entity wants to have an effective program. The administrative process relies on the administering agency to determine guilt and obtain abatement. In the judicial process, the administering agency provides a prosecutor with the investigative evidence that identifies the individual(s) who violated illegal dumping laws. The prosecutor determines if the administering agency has provided sufficient evidence of proof, and has the option of seeking criminal prosecution or filing civil law suits. The prosecutor is also essential in helping to educate the judges on existing environmental laws and why the particular case should be prosecuted. While the judicial process provides a means of imposing jail time and significant fines on the violators, it does extend the time to settle a case and may delay abatement of the illegal dump site until the case is settled.

Illegal Dumping Toolbox Home

For more information contact: Illegal Dumping, IllegalDumping@calrecycle.ca.gov