Illegal dumping is a crime. It not only violates the law but also has many negative impacts on human health and the environment. Dumping has been shown to attract rodents and insects, make areas more susceptible to flooding by blocking stormwater drains and expose residents to harmful materials such as sharp objects or chemicals. Violators who dump illegally are endangering our communities and must be brought to justice. Camera surveillance plays a vital role in identifying and prosecuting individuals who dump illegally, and we must have adequate law enforcement officers to conduct investigations and arrest violators.
Expand HPD’s video surveillance program
$419,000 in additional illegal dumping surveillance cameras. SWMD has placed high visibility mobile surveillance cameras throughout the City to deter illegal dumping activity. The department will monitor footage to identify and prosecute individuals who dump illegally in key problematic locations. In addition, the Houston Police Department (HPD) Environmental Crimes Unit has acquired and installed covert cameras at chronic dumpsites throughout the City. Camera surveillance is an essential tool to help law enforcement investigate, arrest and ultimately convict violators.
Improve enforcement of heavy trash violations
$608,000 per year for six additional code enforcement officers. The City is transitioning responsibility for heavy trash enforcement from Department of Neighborhoods (DON) to SWMD to better align with functional areas, streamline processes and improve enforcement and outreach efforts. This new team of inspectors will be tasked with identifying and responding to violations of Chapter 39 of the City’s Code of Ordinances, such as heavy trash on public rights-of-way. This move will also free up DON Code Enforcement Officers to focus on other neighborhood nuisances such as dangerous buildings, weeded lots and trash on private property.
Launch HPD illegal dumping overtime program
$100,000 in additional overtime for HPD Environmental Crimes Unit. This overtime program will run through 2023 and is anticipated to result in over one-thousand illegal dumping investigations, a nearly 80% increase in investigations compared to 2022.
Make it easier to report illegal dumping and violators
No additional funding required. Community members are a key asset in our fight against illegal dumping. Photos, videos and first-hand accounts from community members who witness illegal dumping can significantly improve law enforcement efforts. The City is launching an online form that will help community members report illegal dumping and aid HPD’s investigation efforts. In addition to the new online form, the public can submit tips through 311, the City’s Rat-on-a-Rat Line (713-525-A-RAT or 713-525-2728), Harris County’s Environmental Crime Tipline (832-927-1567) or via Crimestoppers (713-222-TIPS), which possibly provides tipsters with a reward of up to $5,000.
Grow partnership with outside law enforcement agencies
$1.9 million in additional cameras and contract services over two years. The City of Houston is expanding its partnership with Harris County ‘s primary environmental enforcement agency, Harris County Precinct One Environmental Crimes Unit (HCECU). The partnership will add six deputies to investigate illegal dumping violations over the next two years as well as 120 covert cameras to aid enforcement efforts.
Increase the number of successful prosecutions
No additional funding required. For cases the Harris County District Attorney declines to accept, the City of Houston intends to proceed with prosecuting the lesser offense of a Class C misdemeanor. The City is also addressing a major obstacle to successful prosecutions or failure to identify defendants — by increasing attempts by inspectors or police officers to locate property owners. Additional efforts will include going to residences outside normal work hours, training of inspectors and police officers to cite, not only for the act of illegal dumping but also for allowing it to remain on the property and accessing DPS electronic system records drivers’ license images.
Target major repeat property owner offenders
No additional funding required. The City will hold property owners accountable for failing to prevent illegal dumping on their properties by using civil remedies available under Local Government Code, Chapter 54. Additionally, the City will seek to foreclose on properties with outstanding liens under Chapter 342 of the Health and Safety Code.