Police Jury wants jail time for littering
Anticipating the Legislature would adopt the bill, the Avoyelles Parish Police Jury decided to be among the first parishes to support a tougher anti-litter law that provides jail time for litterbugs.
House Bill 35 was passed by the House on April 10 by a 71-17 vote and passed in the Senate May 11 by a 31-0 vote.
The Police Jury adopted a resolution in support of the bill at its May 8 meeting.
The bill amends the current state law on “gross littering” by adding a 30-day jail sentence as a possible consequence, even for a first offense.
“Gross littering” is defined as someone depositing large amounts of trash into a ditch or at an illegal dumpsite.
A first offense carries a $900 fine and 16 hours of community service in a litter abatement work program. The proposed law would add the possibility of a 30-day jail sentence.
A repeat offender can be fined $2,500-$5,000 and be sentenced to 24 hours of community service in litter abatement. The proposed law also adds a possible 30-day sentence for that conviction.
‘TWO IN ONE DAY”
There has been more effort, and success, in battling the parish’s litter problem.
Police Juror Henry Moreau said he saw a Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries agent “digging through some trash the other day. He found something to ID a person and gave him a ticket. Later that day I saw him again and he told me he ID’d another one. That was two in one day.”
Police Jury President Charles Jones said the parish is serious about its anti-litter campaign.
“Some of these sites are horrible,” Jones said. “The fact is, if the garbage contractor has to send a crew out to clean up one of these sites, it costs us extra above our contract.
“Litter is so terrible in the parish, and it is so easy for people to take it to the dump or call the Parish Barn and have the parish send someone to the house to haul that trash away free of charge.”
The Police Jury adopted the new law “contingent on it passing in the Legislature.”
Jurors said they will meet with District Attorney Charles Riddle to request that litter cases not to be eligible for the pre-trial diversion program.
Jurors want litterbugs to go to trial and face the full consequences of their action in hopes that the tough law will cause others to think before dumping in the ditches, bayous and wooded areas of the parish.
LDWF LEADS FIGHT
The LDWF has become the lead agency in the state’s anti-litter efforts, handing out over 1,000 litter citations a year.
The "Litterbug Hotline" is housed in the LDWF Enforce-ment Division. Tip-sters can call 1-888-548-7284 (1-888-548-LITRBUG) to report littering violations, such as dump sites and public littering.
There are levels of littering. Throwing a gum wrapper on the ground at the public boat ramp won’t land someone in jail.
Simple littering could be trash flying out of the back of a pickup truck and could result in a $175 fine.
Intentional littering would be throwing a bag of fast food trash out the car window. That could earn the litterbug a $250 fine.
The highest level is gross littering.
LDWF reports the most serious littering problems come from cigarettes, fast-food packaging, candy/snack packaging and beverage containers.
Cigarette butts are dangerous to wildlife -- not only as a potential spark for a wildfire, but from nicotine poisoning of those animals who eat them.
LDWF also notes litter is a health risk to people because it attracts rodents and other vermin and spreads germs.
COST OF LITTER
Taxpayers pay directly for littering in the costs to collect and dispose of the trash as well as the cost of enforcing litter laws and adjudicating those cases.
Litter’s indirect economic cost to the public includes real estate devaluation, discouraging new industry/business, and loss of tourism and ecotourism in an area that claims to be a “Sportsman’s Paradise.”
Ways citizens can help reduce litter include cleaning out truck beds and refraining from throwing cigarette butts or other trash out of the car or watercraft. Drivers and boaters should have a litterbag in their vehicle where they can put their incidental trash.
Property owners should remember to cover trash containers to prevent animals from spreading litter.
Those witnessing an incident of littering or illegal dumping are urged to call the hotline.