Taxpayers on hook when illegal dumpers slip by city cameras

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ATLANTA —

Taxpayers spend hundreds of thousands of dollars each year cleaning up after people who dump trash illegally.

Now, two years after the city of Atlanta formed a commission to stop illegal dumping, Channel 2 Action News has learned there has not been one single conviction.

Code enforcement officers say catching violators in the act is extremely difficult, and cameras posted a year ago have yet to catch anything.

It took Channel 2 producers just a few weeks to find someone dumping illegally.

Video shows a Hummer backing into an abandoned apartment complex. The truck parks out of the frame of the camera, but soon after you see cabinets fly from the back of the vehicle. The entire operation takes just a few seconds.

Atlanta city officials have installed two high-dollar cameras that were donated specifically to catch illegal dumpers in the act.

Atlanta City Council member Joyce Sheperd told Coleman the cameras are solar-operated and with so much foliage in Atlanta, the batteries are dying before catching dumpers at night.

Cameras in other major cities have had much different results. Cameras in St. Louis, Mo. captured dozens of violators leading to 263 arrests. In Baltimore, Md., cameras have led to 150 convictions in two years.

Illegal dumpers in Atlanta are costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars in cleanup costs. Each tire cost $7.50 to remove. Last year, the city paid $105,000 to remove scrap tires not including time for labor and the use of city vehicles.

Coleman filed an open records request to obtain a total cost, but was told the city does not track all of the expenses involved.

The scrap tires eventually end up at a recycler like Dewey Grantham with Liberty City Recyclers.

“These guys are pretty slippery. They know what they're doing. They come out at night when nobody's looking,” Grantham said.

In one case the city did get lucky: A city inspector says he happened to catch Alan Roy dumping tires illegally and took a picture of his truck.

Coleman questioned Roy and co-defendant Richard Lee Benton after their hearing in Atlanta Municipal Court. Neither man would comment about the accusations. 

Roy and Benton are part of a tire service in Forest Park. They don’t live in Atlanta but their alleged dumping is adding to the cleanup cost for taxpayers, police said.

City officials just passed a new law that specifically cracks down on tire dumpers. The state of Georgia also passed a similar law that Gov. Nathan Deal is expected to sign into law on Tuesday.