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Cameras effectively curb illegal trash dumping

Motion-activated voice announcing feature key to success of cameras installed this fall

In an effort to curb illegal trash dumping — a crime that costs the city around $300,000 a year — Providence installed eight security cameras throughout the city this fall. “Almost as soon as they went up,” the cameras were “remarkably effective in preventing the dumping,” said Evan England, spokesperson for Mayor Jorge Elorza.

Russell Knight, director of Providence’s Department of Public Works, said most of the cameras’ success can be attributed to their motion-activated voice announcing system, which alerts people that they are being filmed. He said the cameras have only caught one person actually dumping trash because the voice messages deter most people.

But England said this is “not to say that they aren’t simply dumping elsewhere,” adding that keeping camera positions secret and periodically re-locating cameras would broaden the scope of their effectiveness.

Knight said occasionally moving the cameras will help keep illegal trash dumpers “on their toes.”

The city would not disclose the specific locations of each camera, but England said the cameras have been strategically placed in locations most susceptible to illegal dumping. These include side streets, areas along highways and locations with low visibility and little traffic, such as underpasses and dead-end roads.

People usually dump trash illegally when throwing it out by legal means would be expensive or time-consuming, England said. Commonly dumped items are usually of an industrial nature and typically include paint, mattresses, construction materials and furniture, he said, adding that one extreme case involved a 25-foot boat.

Providence chose to install the cameras after other counties and municipalities found them to be effective in helping to address illegal trash dumping, England said. A county in Tennessee and a township in Pennsylvania saw success using similar measures, the Providence Journal reported last month.

The cameras are also are part of a greater city-wide effort to reduce Providence’s environmental impact, improve cleanliness and heighten the city’s aesthetic appeal, England said. A city council ordinance increasing fines and penalties against dumpers is also now in effect, and Elorza’s administration is pushing to rehabilitate abandoned homes and lots that are prime targets for illegal dumping, he said.

The degree to which illegal trash dumping affects College Hill may be minimal. Donna Personeus, executive director of the Thayer Street District Management Authority, said she has not experienced issues with illegal trash dumping on Thayer Street.

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