Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Illegally Dumped Debris Plagues Los Angeles

The Los Angeles Times reports the problem of inner-city trash removal in Los Angeles. Budget cuts under Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa have shifted resources to law enforcement, and it often takes weeks for city sanitation worker to clear the refuse.

L.A. Garbage Dumping

As the photograph above indicates, the areas most affected are the poorer neihborhoods, as in South Central, but this passage indicates how howful conditions are:

Last year, more than 200,000 cubic yards of refuse -- enough trash to cover an acre and rise 12 stories -- was dumped in alleys and streets citywide. The cost to clean it up: $12 million.

Only two crews -- 10 people -- are dedicated to some of the areas most prone to dumping in South L.A. Six of those workers also are responsible for downtown and Boyle Heights, said Bruce Howell, who oversees alley cleaning citywide for the department.

"I'd like to do more, but I only have so many crews," said Howell, adding that twice he has requested money for an additional crew but that the proposals were killed because of budget constraints.

Keeping alleys clean, Howell said, is a never-ending job for his crews, which return regularly to the same problem areas. He said gang members in South L.A. have used blighted byways to operate and have even blocked access with refuse to prevent authorities from entering.

In response to years of illegal dumping, the public works department unveiled a new weapon in 2000: surveillance cameras.

The cameras, programmed to issue an audio warning and take still photos, were installed in 65 alleys and street corners.

But department officials said they were unaware of a single prosecution resulting from photos taken by the cameras. Harris said the photos that he has seen have not been clear enough to identify people or license plates.

Public works officials insist that the cameras have deterred crime.

"There is less dumping and [graffiti] tagging where those cameras are," said Paul Racs, who oversees the cameras for the department's Office of Community Beautification.

In some South L.A. alleys, however, the presence of cameras has failed to stop illegal dumping.

On a recent afternoon, a camera on a telephone pole near 92nd and Hickory streets looked down toward the carcass of a dead dog, which had been there for more than a week, according to neighbors.

The animal laid next to two stuffed chairs, ripped and broken, and a pile of household trash. Flies swarmed around a garbage bag sitting amid a pool of dried blood. The bag was filled with what neighbors said were animal parts. About 20 feet way, a rotting cat carcass lay on top of what appeared to be motor oil.

The smell was stifling.

Carlos Garcia, 63, whose backyard faces the alley, stared at the camera and shook his head.

If someone dumped rubbish in the mayor's neighborhood, he said, it would be picked up right away.

"He would be mad," Garcia said. "This isn't right."
No it's not right.

Urban sanitation is a basic function of local government, and the Villaraigosa administration needs to find money for clean up. These pictures remind me of my travels in Mexico, where I was shocked to see dead horses rotting in the gutter in major cities.


Anonymous said...

^^ nice blog!! ^@^

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