Health issues, blight among top concerns
Illegal trash dumping in South Los Angeles began to strike concern during the 1990s and has since has gone below the acceptable standard of cleanliness resulting in a crisis with very few viable options. There have since been a few solutions to the increasing problem including gates in alleys with locks and keys costing more than $37,000 to install. Suggestions included surveillance cameras, and calling the Department of Sanitation and, fining citizens for covert illegal dumping.
Although viable suggestions, people bend and break locks, fail to lock them up and engage in illicit activities. This allows people to access the street and squat on private property. Many unhoused citizens are uneducated, facing eviction, and displaced resulting in fewer dumpsters to dispose of trash. Many residents become evicted with no place to keep furniture and end up disposing of it illegally.
This has proven to be a major problem specifically in South Los Angeles. Watts, for instance, has been a hotbed for illegal dumping. Large trucks covertly dump trash with no license plates late at night to avoid fees. South Los Angeles requests for pick-up account for 20% of calls. The Union Pacific and city have had a bureaucratic battle for several years with regards to whose responsibility it is to clean up trash.
Additionally, abandoning trash can result in health issues for the surrounding residents and people occupying and or entering unsafe environments filled with waste. Tim Watkins with the Watts Labor Community Action Committee states that he tested for toxins including lead, chromium, arsenic, and manganese. Finally, it creates the potential for fire hazards and is an invitation for diseased vermin and animals. Property values have decreased and challenged real estate agents. Sadly the environment available is not designed for a healthy environment.
The railroad has jurisdiction over many areas in Watts and has to cooperate with the Los Angeles Department of Sanitation for scheduling the pickup of larger items. The Department of Sanitation is understaffed and has fewer trucks. They also receive an overwhelming number of calls that are difficult to address. In aims to combat illegal dumping, the Department of Sanitation has plans to hire more employees and even William Taylor has hauled trash into his own truck.
The problem is not solely in alleys and or in empty parking lots, it accounts for public sidewalks and lines the street adjacent to walkways. Local resident Shanyan Evans remarked, “I believe it’s a pretty big issue. I think that it happens more often on the public walkways than it does in the residential areas. I think there should be something implemented along the lines of how creating a street sweeper where you can access you can access the sidewalks as opposed to just the street.”
Regarding illegal street dumping, a statement from tSupervisor Holly J. Mitchell said “All communities deserve healthy, livable neighborhoods with clean streets. The issue of illegal dumping has grown significantly—disproportionately impacting low-income communities of color—which my office is working to change.
“In addition to supporting LA County Department of Public Works’ efforts to target illegal dumping hot spots and make data publicly available, my office is partnering with community-based organizations in key areas of the Second District to pilot community clean-up efforts that support neighborhood beautification and local workforce development opportunities.”
Local South Los Angeles resident, “Matt” expressed his frustration with living in an impoverished community with very few resources to combat the problem “ I have lived in South Los Angeles for 26 years. Ever since the pandemic happened in 2020 the trash around the city has gotten worse, we now have more homeless on the streets that create a bigger pile of trash lying around. Trash dumping frustrates me due to the amount of trash that accumulates on sidewalks, alleys, and empty parking lots which end up looking like a junkyard,” he said.
Nearly two years ago, Mayor Garcetti didn’t address the situation regarding unhoused people illegally dumping trash. A mere nineteen cameras were installed in a four hundred and seventy square mile city. Surveillance cameras are an expensive suggestion. Installation would have to match the various “hot spots” people utilize in the dark of night. Fines are usually below the $500 mark.
“As a community beautification organization with over eighteen years of experience in neighborhood beautification, a key component to successfully impact illegal dumping is partnerships. Partnerships with local council offices, law enforcement, and the community itself,” commented CRCD Enterprises Vice President Joe Gamez. “These key partnerships provide resources and support that allow us to identify hot zones and proactively target areas where consistent illegal dumping occurs. In collaboration with partners, we are also able to properly inform the community of the right channels when illegal dumping occurs and allows for a quicker response time.”