UPDATE: This story has been updated to include a statement from the DC DPW.
- Harper Westover, a two-year-old resident of Washington, DC, was issued a $75 "Notice of Violation" for allegedly littering a discarded envelope with her name on it in a local alley, as reported by The Washington Post.
- Harper's mother Theresa was also issued a $75 ticket for a tossed piece of mail with her name on it. Theresa and her husband explained to the Post that they do not litter and the citations were not appropriately issued.
- After public pushback on social media, DC Department of Public Works (DPW) Director of Communications Zy Richardson told the mother that the ticket would be waived with proof that the "violator" is actually two years old. Further investigation led to both tickets being waived.
While a two-year-old being cited for littering is a rare occurrence, this story raises a more relevant discussion of who's to blame in situations like the one experienced by the Westovers. After being circulated on the local blog Popville, this story had readers asking how officials are to truly know the perpetrator of littering in an alley where collection teams are quickly carrying bags to trucks that cannot fit down the narrow streets. While it is possible that consumers litter in such areas, it is also possible that collection teams accidentally leave waste behind — which was likely in this scenario.
Such discussion opens a door for officials to reconsider the best ways to issue littering citations in congested cities.
Addressing the overall issue of illegal dumping has been an hot topic across the country lately. Just last week, Oakland, CA residents dropped garbage on the steps of city hall to demand attention toward the city's illegal dumping issues. DC DPW has made it known across social media that it is taking action to address illegal dumping, especially in alleys, but some more public education may be needed.
DC DPW offered the following statement regarding the incident: "DPW’s Solid Waste Education and Enforcement Program is responsible for inspecting sanitation violations to ensure cleanliness is maintained throughout District neighborhoods. The work they do goes a long way toward minimizing rodent infestation and health hazards. Inspectors always evaluate the contents of the waste that appears to be in violation and use identifying information found within the waste to issue a citation. In this instance, we are working with the resident to gather the necessary documentation to dismiss the violation inadvertently given to the two-year old ... We will continue to partner together with residents and businesses to keep the District clean."