Code enforcement cracking down on illegal dumping

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Illegal dumping is making a mess of Indianapolis neighborhoods.

The city is counting on a new detective, a computer search tool, to help track down and punish the culprits. So far this year, the city has received 2,100 illegal dumping complaints, but have written only seven summonses.

Inspectors are changing tactics and trying a new investigation tool, hoping to turn the numbers around.

In some areas, vacant lots and alleys look like dumps. There are building materials, furniture, trash by the truckload and city workers trying to catch the people responsible. Standing in front of a pile of dumped trash, Jennifer Schick of the city's code enforcement department said, "It is not going to be one person. It's not going to be one department. It is all of us coming together to solve."

Code enforcement inspectors and police targeted the worst area's of the city Friday, looking for illegal dumpers and unlicensed trash haulers.

Randolph Rhodes is one of several pulled over, ticketed and very unhappy.

"We were trying clean up some property and we get stopped because we don't have a hauler's permit," he insisted.

Rhodes can plead his case to a judge.

Catching illegal dumpers in the act, inspectors claim, is nearly impossible. When a pickup dumped its load in the alley, Lewis Bates was watching.

"Then they took off," he said.

How long? 30 seconds?

"Not long," Bates said with a laugh.

Many times, the dumping occurs at night or out of sight. One dump site behind a vacant house looks like someone moved out in a hurry or was thrown out of their home. Clothes, a sofa, children's toys, household trash, and six or seven pairs of shoes littered the alley.

When inspectors are lucky and find bills, mail, or other clues, a new computer search tool does the detective work.

"We can find not only where that person lives, but known associates, aliases and track them down that way," said Al Ensley, a code enforcement spokesman.

Officers can then hold the owners responsible. Even if they paid someone to haul the junk away, assuming it would go to landfill, not a back alley.

Illegal dumping fines start at $500. If you hire a trash hauler, protect yourself. Their city license should be on the windshield and their license number should be on a printed city registration or their truck.

The license number should be in the glove compartment or on the truck. If it's not on the receipt, write it down. Instead of going after you, inspectors will go after them.

If there is illegal dumping in your neighborhood, complain to the Mayor's Action Center at 317-327-4MAC.