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{HARRISBURG} — Calling it a “black eye” on the city and its neighborhoods, Harrisburg Mayor Wanda R.D. Williams joined fellow city officials and Dauphin County leaders on Monday to announce a new initiative to team up to target illegal dumping activity throughout neighborhoods.

The announcement, which took place at a hot spot for illegal dumping on Bailey Street in the Summit Terrace neighborhood, proposes to use additional Dauphin County resources to help the City of Harrisburg take down people committing illegal dumping crimes. Those found to have illegally dumped trash will now be charged under Pennsylvania law, as opposed to city ordinances, which opens the door for heavier fines and harsher punishments for repeat offenders.

Mayor Williams spoke at the press event alongside Dauphin County Commissioner Mike Pries, District Attorney Fran Chardo, and Harrisburg City Councilman Ralph Rodriguez, who serves as the council’s Public Works Chairman.

“We are committed to doing everything we can to stop illegal dumping today, so we can raise safer neighborhoods and families tomorrow,” said Mayor Williams, adding studies have shown a direct correlation between illegal dumping and violent crime in neighborhoods. “The last place this junk belongs is in someone’s backyard.”

In an effort to centralize all illegal dumping prevention efforts, Dauphin County President Judge Scott Evans has appointed Magisterial District Judge Marian Urrutia of Susquehanna Township to handle all environmental-related cases across the county, Mr. Chardo announced. In addition, the City of Harrisburg will no longer enforce illegal dumping by city ordinance, but instead, through the Pennsylvania Crimes Code.

The ability to charge individuals using state law, Chardo said, will allow stricter penalties for people caught illegal dumping multiple times. While the first offense is a maximum $300 fine, it also carries the requirement to pick up the illegally dumped trash for five to 30 hours of community service.

The second and subsequent violations carry the weight of a misdemeanor and a $1,000 maximum fine, plus 30 to 100 hours of community service trash pickup.

“These are repeat offenses, and making it a misdemeanor crime on subsequent offenses will be a hammer,” said Mr. Chardo. “There are real teeth in this statute.”

Chardo also announced the appointment of retired Pennsylvania State Police Corporal Pete Baltimore as a special county detective, with the exclusive duties of enforcing the Pennsylvania Crimes Code.

Baltimore has been working with City of Harrisburg Public Works since October 2022 to assist in their efforts to catch illegal dumpers.

The City of Harrisburg, under Mayor Wanda R.D. Williams, has devoted more resources to fighting illegal dumping than ever before. In 2023, the city picked up 1,709 piles of trash at a total of 666.17 tons – a total of more than 1.3 million pounds of trash. Illegal dumping throughout Harrisburg has cost city taxpayers $153,778.68 in the last calendar year.

However, the city has not been able to recoup a single penny from those committing these crimes.

“We have determined that illegal dumping is an epidemic here in the city, taking a negative toll on the community, our environment, and our residents – young and old – throughout the city,” said Commissioner Mike Pries. “We are here to say, ‘Enough is enough,’ and we are committed to full legal enforcement to clean up our capital city.”

Cleaning up illegal dumping sites is a five-day-a-week process, said Public Works Director Dave West, and even then, it is similar to plugging holes in the bottom of a leaky boat; when one site gets cleaned up, another pops up.

As the weather warms up, Councilman Rodriguez leads monthly community efforts to clean-up illegal dumping throughout the city as part of his Hot Spot Saturdays initiative. This volunteer driven effort will meet this year on the following dates:

  • April 13
  • May 18
  • June 29
  • July 20
  • August 24
  • September 14

A list of locations by date are available by clicking this link.