Scenic locations in South Jersey are too often marred by piles of trash, illegally dumped by people avoiding the small inconvenience and cost of proper disposal curbside or at their landfill. When they pick a secluded place to dump their garbage, sadly it’s often in a natural area they think is empty and of little value.
We’ve long supported anything to curb this crime against society and its resources. Five years ago, we called for increased fines and possibly jail time to discourage dumpers from saving a small amount of money at everyone else’s expense. So we’re always glad to see a case prosecuted and improvements in illegal dumping enforcement.
Vineland recently cracked a dumping case the old-fashioned way. City officials started by analyzing a pile of trash found in the city and determining some of it was packing material from a delivery to a home in Pleasantville. With the cooperation of the residents there, they tracked the source to a delivery company — which accepted its guilt and paid a $2,500 fine plus court fees.
Mayor Anthony Fanucci said a substantial fine was important for deterrence. “Individuals who illegally dump waste do so because they believe it is worth the risk, meaning they perceive that they will not get caught or, if they are caught, will not face severe repercussions,” he said.
Seeking maximum penalties was part of a 2015 state crackdown on dumping called “Don’t Waste Our Open Space.” That excellent effort yielded 62 enforcement actions in a little more than a year.
It also brought into play modern technology, such as motion-activated cameras, which has helped the public and law enforcers catch what used to be elusive criminal actions. The program developed an application for smartphones that allows people to immediately and anonymously report a dumping site’s location, size and type, as well as include a photo of the debris. It’s available at stopdumping.nj.gov.
On that state Department of Environmental Protection website, you can also see cases prosecuted during the crackdown, often with mugshots of those charged or convicted as well as photos of the trash they dumped. South Jersey natural areas they despoiled include Belleplain and Wharton State Forests, Peaslee Wildlife Management Area, Port Republic, Cape Island and Beaver Swamp in Cape May County, Hammonton Creek and Makepeace Lake.
In many cases, perpetrators paid a small fraction of the maximum fine for their crimes — for example, facing a maximum of $31,500 but paying just $1,500, or facing $26,500 and paying $500.
That doesn’t sound like the deterrence that Fanucci rightly said was needed, although the guilty do also have to pay for the cleanup of the dump sites, which can be significant.
We’d like to see the crackdown on dumping continue, with signs touting the N.J. DEP Illegal Dumping app and more substantial fines for those found guilty. Armed with technology, the public, the DEP and local governments can mostly end this longtime scourge of natural resources.