LOS ANGELES (CN) - Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer said Thursday that he will work with the city, county and state to tackle illegal waste dumping in L.A.'s neighborhoods and waterways.
"Illegal dumping threatens public health and safety, it erodes quality of life in our neighborhoods," Feuer said during a morning press conference at City Hall. "We can do something about that. I'm announcing a multijurisdictional strike force, coming together to combat illegal dumping that's a scourge in so many of our neighborhoods."
Feuer said the city would use cameras and Neighborhood Watch teams to catch violators dumping repeatedly in the same place. It takes up to one month to clean a site once illegal dumping had been identified, Feuer said.
The city's Clean Streets Initiative provided $5 million for the project.
Members of the task force outnumbered members of the media, forming a line that stretched out of the conference room.
Officials with the city's Bureau of Sanitation, Bureau of Watershed Protection, Bureau of Street Services, and LAPD Port Police, and representatives of several City Council districts were there.
Feuer said violations involve multiple forms of dumping, requiring several agencies.
"You have Watershed Protection involved, and the Regional Water Quality Board because some forms of dumping include the dumping of liquids into gutters, waterways, storm drains," Feuer said. "They have expertise that street services or the County Fire Hazmat people don't have."
A whiteboard displayed illegal dumping sites in Boyle Heights, South Los Angeles, Pacoima and Wilmington. One picture showed a pile of trash dumped in an alley; another depicted discarded furniture on a road.
Perhaps anticipating a charge of overkill in tackling a glorified littering issue, Feuer took pains to explain the impact on the city's neighborhoods.
"When we talk about illegal dumping, it sounds very prosaic. It doesn't sound like the biggest issue in the county," Feuer said. "I have to tell you, I've done maybe 60 or 70 town hall meetings and in almost every one of those meetings, whether it's the West San Fernando Valley or in Wilmington ... it's a quality of life problem that is among the top priorities they have."
He added: "We want to catch people who do this and send a message that we're going to find you and are going to prosecute you."
Board of Public Works President Kevin James said in the past fiscal year the Bureau of Sanitation received almost 600,000 service notices, 65 percent of them related to illegal dumping.
James said the agency had collected 75,000 tons of illegally dumped waste during city sweeps and cleanups, and that street services had sent 2,777 illegal notices to violators in the past two fiscal years.
"Part of what we're doing is getting the word out that you can no longer just dump things in the city streets and walk away," James said.
Feuer said two criminal cases have been filed in connection with illegal dumping in Wilmington.
Anthony Menes, 56, was charged after LAPD Port Police received a tip that he had dumped 3 to 4 television frames on Alameda Street.
Jaime Sosa Guerra, 39, Manuel Velasquez, 46, and George Filander, 62, were charged after port police saw them dumping wood pallets, plastic engine parts, lumber and plastic chairs onto a pile of garbage on East 1st Street.
If convicted on the misdemeanor charges, they face up to six months in jail and a $1,000 per count penalty.
The city says it will monitor nine "hot spots." The Bureau of Sanitation will clean up city streets in problem areas. Feuer declined to comment on the location of the sites, which include alleys and larger swathes of neighborhoods, because investigations are pending.
"People give up on government sometimes," Feuer said. "A key ingredient here is that we have to keep coming back and displaying to people that we're not just there for that one town hall meeting, for that one prosecution - we're really a partner with you," Feuer said.
The city said the public can call 213-847-6000 to report illegal dumping, or call 877-ASK-LAPD after 4 p.m.
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