Illegal dumping: Inside the Detroit police crackdown

At some point - enough is enough. It's time for people who illegally dump in the city to pay the piper.

Dumpers have become some of Detroit's Most Wanted but this one is a bit personal.

This house is personal because it is where I grew up. A car sits in the driveway, idle. Behind it are a few car seats that have been sitting there for quite some time.

It goes without saying, it hurts. It hurts to see the house you grew up in has become vacant.

One house becomes a neighborhood, that neighborhood becomes a dumping ground. It's been a problem for so long in the city of Detroit and residents are fed up.

"D stands for dumping," said resident Kathleen Hurd. "It bothers me because we are human beings just like everybody else.

"So why do you come to destroy where I live."

From contractors to even its own residents, they are dumping everything.

"They just don't dump trash, they dump stolen cars," said Lt. Rebecca McKay, Detroit police.

"I've seen boats, tires, dead dogs," said another man.

"It's crazy, absolutely nuts that we have to put up with this," said Jonathon Pommerville.

And now, the city is fed up, too.

Back in September the city announced a new initiative to crack down on those who are trashing our city.

The Detroit Police Department granted our request to give you an inside look on this new effort. McKay is leading the unit and for her, this assignment is personal.

"Take a look around and look at the amount of people that are leaving," she said. "Why are they leaving, this is why. It hit me personally, because I lived in an area that fell to blight, and I was forced to leave."

The Detroit Police Department is using hidden cameras in different neighborhoods. The footage is sent back to headquarters, and viewed by officers.

Once they figure out who the dumpers are --- police move in to make the arrest.

One man, a Detroit resident, met with officers knowing he would likely be arrested  after being caught on camera illegally dumping.

"He decided it would be a good idea to dump some old carpet and some wood debris in the middle of the roadway," McKay said. 

LANDON: "You are a Detroit resident, how does this help clean up our city, sir?"

The guy doesn't want to talk, but it's unfortunate when you have people who grew up in the city, live in the city, trashing their own neighborhoods.

"He said he was sorry, he said he wished he hadn't done it," McKay said.

LANDON: "At least he owned up to it. Do you have people who don't own up to it?"

MCKAY: "For sure. We have to make them a believer once we get to court and show them the video."

The woman on the phone with McKay did not want to play ball, refusing to play ball. Detroit police head to her house.

"We're out here for her neighbors to see," McKay said. "Obviously something is going on, you know, how the neighborhood talks."

The man and woman inside the residence are led out

LANDON:  "Why did you decide not to meet with police?

"I wasn't sure, lack of knowledge on the situation," she said. "I've never been in this situation before. It is wrong. I know Detroit neighborhoods need to be cleaned up. It is wrong. For me to be in my clean area, and dumping somewhere else I considered to be a slum.

"It's still wrong."

The man she was with, was then led out in cuffs.

"I should have never dumped the trash," the man said.

LANDON: "Did you grow up in Detroit?"

"Yes I did."

LANDON: "You're still a resident in Detroit?"

"Yes I am."

LANDON:  "What would you say to people who are out there still illegally dumping in your situation, right here, right now?"

"Stop illegal dumping," he said. "Just dump the trash we're it is supposed to be at."

The offenders are not only residents of Detroit, but also surrounding communities including one man from Monroe County who got busted.

"He works for a concrete company," McKay said. "And he decided that it is going to be okay to dump his broken up concrete from one of his jobs. I am quite certain he would not think its okay in Monroe."

Jonathon Pommerville has chosen to take matters into his own hands by catching people in the act, confronting them face to face, and posted his videos on YouTube.

Some may call him a vigilante, but maybe he's just a guy who's had enough.

"They just dump here at a phenomenal level," he said. "I got fed up a few years ago with people dumping in my neighborhood and picking up hookers as well. I decided to go pick up my camera. Some people are civil and some people want nothing to do with me and my camera. Some people cry.

"It is just a lot of resources that we're spending to clean this up. Watch out folks, there are cameras that are in these neighborhoods now."

"I deserve to have nice things," Hurd said. "Anybody else who is here regardless of how much money they have or don't have, deserve that same thing. So stop dumping here."

There are still many problems, and stopping illegal dumping will not solve all of them, but's one step closer to bring back the neighborhoods.

The fines for illegal dumping can be up to $2,500 and carry a sentence of up to 90 days in jail. More cameras are being installed and these cameras are mobile, put up in one neighborhood today and a different one tomorrow.

In September Mayor Mike Dugan said two thirds of the people arrested for illegal dumping live in the suburbs.

McKay couldn't go into details, but this new mobile camera effort could also help solve other crimes if caught on video.

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