Reporting Joe Shortsleeve
LYNN (CBS) – They are people with no regard for the community around them, sneaking into a neighborhood and dumping all kinds of trash.
But now more of them are getting caught and I-Team reporter Joe Shortsleeve has the evidence being used against them.
Take a walk with Jay Fink, Commissioner of the Lynn Department of Public Works, and see what he sees. He says his work crews have already cleared a vacant lot off a busy Lynn street a couple of times in the past year.
WBZ-TV’s Joe Shortsleeve reports
“What is in here is bricks, cinders, concrete, things that you can’t put in the trash can, so that sort of starts the issue.”
As the commissioner surveys the lot he says, “There are mattresses, I assume were brought in under the cover of darkness.”
But Lynn is fighting back with video. Images obtained by the I-Team show a man on a moped casually dumping his trash in another nearby vacant lot and speeding away.
Talk about candid camera, the man is now being prosecuted.
Commissioner Fink admits to using the cameras with great success. He says, “They are digital cameras, we can pick up license plate numbers, and we can pick up facial recognition.”
The cameras, dozens of them, are on loan to communities across the state from the Department of Environmental Protection. They are camouflaged and hidden out of view.
Ken Kimmell, the State Commissioner says, “People who have been caught have been hit with fines ranging from $300 on the low end to many thousands on the high end, and again, much much more than they would have paid if they had just gone to the landfill.”
And the surveillance pictures capture it all. They show people are willing to take a chance dumping mattresses on a wooded lane, even in the middle of the night, flinging yard waste in the middle of a street and tossing building materials onto a sidewalk.
The result is vacant lots and space buried in a sea of decaying debris.
We visited one such vacant in Lawrence which required a small army to clean up.
John Isensee is the Commissioner. He says his employees have better things to do, but they cannot ignore this problem.
He says, “If they were not here, they would be doing street sign repair, crosswalk painting, pot hole filling.”
The I-Team found it is a scene is repeated over and over again at locations across the state, public works crews spending thousands of dollars, cleaning up the same site over and over again.
Why? Because as the trash piles up, so do the problems for the community.
Commissioner Fink in Lynn says, “Then you have problems with rodents, skunks, snakes or anything else.”
Back in Lawrence, Commissioner Isensee says, “The danger is the type of junk they put out there, this is a community of 13,000 kids.”
“They may walk in these vacant lots and there could be some broken glass or some kind of item that might cause them danger.”
Those same trash concerns have Boston officials aggressively tracking down scofflaws and issuing fines. One recent violation obtained by the I-Team says trash and debris were dumped on the grounds of a temple in Dorchester.
The I-Team went to the house in Brockton where the suspect vehicle was registered. Rene Mathieu was home recovering from surgery. He says his nephew had been using his truck.
Mathieu called his nephew and while the TV camera rolled, he said, “OK, I’ve got a problem here. I’ve got Channel 4 here and you used my truck to dump trash somewhere. Have you been using my truck to dump trash, illegal dumping?”
Mathieu admitted, “I am responsible because that is my plate, but if he does it, he is the one who is going to have to pay the consequences.”
His nephew admitted to the I-Team to being at the scene of the dumping, but says he was just picking up fire wood.
Communities are very serious about this issue these days.
Lawrence estimates it’s costing them about $250,000.00 a year to clean up lots and that is money no community has these days.
The state’s cameras have led to 60 prosecutions in recent years.
If you have a tip for the I-Team, you can let them know at ITeam@wbztv.com