NEW PORT RICHEY, Fl. (WFLA) — In today’s world, it’s safe to assume you’re always on camera. And, we mean always.
Case in point, people caught in the act in rural Pasco County committing crimes in a place they’d never expect to be busted.
Yet, the expression on their faces indicates they know what they’re doing is wrong. They move quickly. Their eyes dart back and forth, indicating a level of both nervousness and risk.
So, what’s this crazy crime being continuously committed? Drivers are caught on camera over and over dumping everything from couches to televisions, even giant tree stumps. It’s happening on dead-end, rural roads all over Pasco County.
County leaders began noticing a trend roughly four years ago, when residents began notifying them about trash and waste illegally dumped on deserted roads in heavily wooded areas.
Something had to be done, but how would these people be caught? How could they be busted in the act without 24 hour surveillance, tying up manpower?
One of the county leaders was reading an article in a magazine where French leaders were utilizing game cameras to catch crime as it was happening in France. Such a simple concept, albeit one that was not being utilized at the time in the United States, according to Pasco county administrators.
That’s when it clicked.
“We began placing these cameras in rural areas, and no one knew that they were there. We began catching people illegally dumping. They know they’re doing something wrong,” said Pasco Director of Public Works Michael Garrett.
Jackpot! The results were undeniable.
The cameras provided both excellent audio and video capabilities, allowing both the county and the Pasco Sheriff’s Office to identify drivers clearly committing these crimes, bringing vehicles into heavily wooded areas solely for the purpose of dumping unwanted items.
In fact, in many cases, the video is so clear you can even see license plates, which makes citations easy to facilitate. In some instances, however, when identifying plates can not be seen, the videos have been released to the media and broadcast to Tampa Bay viewers. Neighbors, friends and relatives often recognize the perpetrators seen on surveillance.
Illegal dumping is considered a third-degree felony, with a fine of $500 per item left behind.
Pasco County is seeing such huge success with the program that cities like San Jose, California are calling quickly and asking for details on how to copy the idea. Pasco leaders tell WFLA News Channel 8 that this is a clever, cutting-edge crime-fighting tool working wonders to clean up areas that would otherwise be overrun with garbage.
“We want to keep our county clean, and this is a great way to do it,” said Garrett.
The sheriff’s office is asking for help finding the people who’ve been dumping trash in various areas of the county. If you recognize the people in the videos, call the Pasco County Litterbug Tip Line at (727) 247-0567. WARNING- Some profanity in videos.
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