Keep El Dorado Beautiful is considering a suggestion to hammer home its message on littering, recycling and beautification by focusing on those who flagrantly ignore it.
During a meeting earlier this week, Mayor Frank Hash called on KEB to conduct some “forensic” work to weed out the biggest offenders of littering and the areas they target most.
“Do we do any forensics on what ends up in the ditch and on the street? I’d like to see us spend more time on who’s doing it,” Hash said. “One thing we can do is analyze the situation and try to pinpoint where it’s coming from and attack the most likely source.”
“Like, when we clean up, do we pay attention to what we’re collecting?” asked KEB member Dan Roblee.
KEB members said one of the main litter problems they encounter are drivers throwing out bags and containers from fast food restaurants.
“Are there any particular age groups? Is it children? Is it adults? I know people are driving, and I see a lot of a beer bottles and beer cans, so I don’t think it’s children,” Hash said.
As an example, the group pointed to the area in a curve behind Washingon Middle School — which has long been identified as a hot-spot for litter bugs.
“And that street is named after a prominent person, and that’s defiling the name,” Hash said, referring to
Booker T. Washington Avenue, which curves into Short East Hillsboro.
KEB members agreed that the curve is a high traffic area with residential properties — including an apartment complex — just to the east and pedestrians and drivers passing through each weekday on their way to school and businesses and industry nearby.
Roblee, who is also general manager of Clean Harbors, said he travels through the area on his way to work each day and sees firsthand what an eyesore it can become.
“There are (no littering) signs behind the school, and it’s still one of the worst areas,” Roblee said.
He previously said he has often seen the area fill back up with litter immediately following a community cleanup.
For the past two years, Clean Harbors has worked with Ward 3 aldermen Willie McGhee and Kensel Spivey to host a cleanup in the ward.
Jeri Ratcliff said it is often difficult for police to catch litterbugs, and she called on stricter enforcement of litter laws.
“Can’t the money from the tickets pay for officers to focus on problem areas?” Ratcliff asked.
A first-time offense can yield a fine of $100 – $1,000.
An additional penalty of eight hours of community service could accompany the fine.
If someone is convicted of littering within three years of a first offense, the person is subject to a fine of $200 - $2,000 and up to 24 hours of community service.
Violators who are convicted of a first or second offense may also be ordered to pick up litter alongside state highways and any other locations within a prescribed period.
Janis Van Hook, president of KEB, said the group has spoken to 35th Judicial District Court Judge Jack Barker about the matter.
“He’s behind us 100 percent, particularly for the first offense to perform community service. He’d rather see them out there cleaning up for the litter they’ve thrown down,” Van Hook said.
Community service is also a preference for KEB.
Police Chief Billy White previously said the El Dorado Police Department also supports KEB’s efforts.
He said officers sometimes issue citations for littering, but the practice does not occur often.
“You have to witness it in order to issue a citation,” he said, echoing Ratcliff’s comments.
The group noted that if private citizens witness someone littering from a vehicle, they may report it by recording the license plate number and calling police or the state’s toll-free litter hotline at 866-811-1222.
However, Hash and KEB member said its is often difficult to get the desired results from the hotline.
KEB members discussed possible working with local fast food restaurants to print stickers that would be attached to bags and containers.
The stickers would urge people not to litter and list the possible penalties for the offense.
Tia Lyons may be contacted at 870-862-6611 or tlyons@ eldoradonews.com.