D.C. Beefs Up Litter Program; Pedestrians and Motorists Targeted

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Visitors and residents of Ward 4 beware: that hamburger wrapper you unconsciously throw on the ground may warrant a ticket from D.C. police. Mayor Vincent Gray (D) and the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) kicked off a litter enforcement program May 1 for Ward 4 and part of Ward 5, targeting pedestrians and motorists.

Ward 4 is home to nearly 80,000 residents, including the communities of Fort Totten and Petworth. Gwendolyn Crump, a police spokeswoman, said the wards were singled out due to the volume of complaints.

“Because this enforcement required an entirely new form and adjudication process between MPD and the Office of Administrative Hearings, we decided to run a test pilot before launching citywide,” Crump said. “Littering was an often mentioned concern in the community of the fourth police district.”

Throughout May, the police department will issue warnings to those who litter, and work with community leaders to educate residents about program. Starting June 1, violators in the fourth district, which covers part of Ward 5, will be subject to arrests and tickets. According to a press release about the program, a $75 ticket will be issued to anyone who “intentionally or carelessly” drops waste on public space, waterways or private property, not controlled by the individual. Those who do not provide an accurate name or address can be arrested by an issuing officer. Non-cooperative violators will be fined an additional $100 to $250 by the D.C. Superior Court upon conviction.

Currently, a citywide litter policy is already in place, where disposing of trash from a vehicle on public or private property is subject to a $100 traffic ticket.

“The pilot enforcement only applies to violations that are not for vehicle drivers, sometimes called pedestrian littering,” Crump said.

The Department of Public Works (DPW) sponsors the Helping Hand/Neighborhood Clean-up Projects on the weekend, where communities use tool kits, which include five rakes and brooms, two shovels and 20 trash bags. A $20 refundable deposit is required for all kits loaned under the program.

During FY 2010, the Helping Hand program collected 220 tons of trash, according to DPW. The department collected 168 tons of litter from highways and 7, 834 tons of litter from more than 4,000 litter cans citywide.

Trash not disposed in litter bins must be maintained by business owners or residents if it is on private property, said Linda Grant, the DPW spokeswoman.

“Residents are responsible for maintaining the public space from their property line to the curb,” she said. “Businesses are responsible for maintaining the public space from their property line to 18 inches from the curb into the street.”

Crump said there is no revenue projection for the project. Instead, the police department’s primary goal is to deter people from littering.

“Payments are made to the city’s general fund and are not handled by MPD. More importantly, there is no target for the number of tickets to be issued as the primary goal is simply to motivate people to help keep the District clean,” she said.

Helping Hand tool kits can be obtained by calling the Mayor’s Citywide Call Center at 311.