UPDATE: Chicagao aldermen advanced on Tuesday Mayor Rahm Emanuel's measure that would increase fines for fly-dumping, as reported by the Chicago Tribune. The proposed measure also includes higher fines for not cleaning up waste on private property, even if it's dumped by others and on maintaining a building that's deemed a health hazard.
Officials said that illegal dumping is an especially large problem in outlying neighborhoods of the city, including the south, west and southwest sides of Chicago. Last year, Chicago's Streets and Sanitation Department recorded around 4,000 illegal dumping incidents and spent $1.5 million cleaning up 32,000 tons of waste.
- Chicago has spent nearly $100,000 to step up surveillance of people illegally dumping tires and other waste around the city with 15 new high-resolution cameras, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
- The cameras, which the city began installing about a month ago, have helped officials file two illegal dumping cases in court. The city has also recovered 4,000 truckloads of tires so far this year.
- Mayor Rahm Emanuel has also introduced a measure that would increase fines from a maximum of $3,500 for repeat offenders to $30,000 for large quantities of illegally dumped waste — an increase of 757%, as reported by DNAinfo. That measure will be considered by the City Council in the coming weeks.
From rolling out its "oops" tag initiative to teaming with The Recycling Partnership for a consumer-facing recycling awareness campaign, Chicago has shown it is taking waste diversion and cleanup more seriously than ever before. Therefore the installation of new surveillance cameras around the city is not surprising, but Emanuel's stance on penalizing illegal dumpers is a bit more extreme than anticipated. While it is understandable for the city to increase the consequences of illegal dumping, a 757% increase in fines is an incredible boost — one that City Council members may clash over in upcoming sessions.
The severity of the situation has grown in the past few years, however, due to the rise of diseases like the Zika virus carried by mosquitos — which are attracted to scrap tire piles. Many states have worked to mitigate these hazards through increased enforcement and audits of illegal dumping, proving it is not just an issue of cleanliness but also an issue of public health.
The overall concept of using video equipment and steep penalties to catch and penalize illegal dumpers is quite common across metro areas. In August, Miami upgraded its camera system to better monitor the situation, and San Jose has installed cameras in addition to sending residents targeted postcards to inform them on the issues of illegal dumping. Due to Chicago's efficiency in filing two dumping cases in court so quickly after the cameras were installed, it is likely that the initiative will be continue to be a success.