The City of Oakland announced Friday a major step forward in the work to hold illegal dumping offenders accountable, as ten surveillance cameras have been installed at strategic locations where dumping most frequently and severely occurs.
The installation of ten cameras, which the City Council approved unanimously in January, will allow the Oakland Public Works (OPW) staff to review high-quality video footage capable of supporting cases against dumpers who are caught on camera. The pilot was announced in a press event at the corner of 21st Avenue and Solano Way, a known hot spot that is also behind Community School for Creative Education (CSCE).
OPW manages most City services related to illegal dumping and public blight – and picked up 7,470 tons (or: almost 15 million pounds) in the last fiscal year alone. OPW is resolved to curb widespread dumping by holding violators accountable. The department is managing the camera program with a growing team of civilian Environmental Enforcement Officers (EEOs). A team of six officers is now actively investigating illegal dumping across the City, with a seventh anticipated later this year.
The goal of installing surveillance cameras near chronic dumping hot spots is to capture video evidence that identifies dumpers or produces supporting information needed to build credible cases for prosecution. The surveillance cameras offer the City a viable way to enhance and support the investigative work performed by the EEO team. Fines can be up to $1,000 per incident of dumping, per day. OPW staff will be monitoring these locations closely and evaluating how awareness of the cameras, and increased enforcement activity, helps dissuade possible offenders. With cameras installed in known hot spots, dumpers face a higher risk of getting caught. Over time, surveillance cameras may serve as an ongoing, visual deterrent to potential dumpers after the surveillance program matures.
“Our message is simple and direct: respect the Town and stop dumping on Oakland,” Mayor Libby Schaaf said. “Oakland families have long been fed up with people dumping on their neighborhoods, leaving dangerous and unhealthy trash where children walk and play. Today we are sending a signal that if you dump on these communities, you will be caught and held accountable.”
“Illegal dumping impacts neighborhoods across our city, and especially our low-income and immigrant communities and business corridors such as in District 2’s San Antonio and Clinton Park,” said City Council President Nikki Fortunato Bas, who is also the Councilmember representing District 2. “I am so encouraged by this step forward to get to the root of the problem — by holding accountable those dumping toxic, unsightly waste where our neighbors live, work, and recreate. Thank you to the community advocates who have organized around this issue for many years and to OPW for your work year-round beautifying our communities. Together, our partnership is marking this monumental progress in keeping our neighborhoods clean and healthy.”
“A clean and safe Oakland needs to be a priority,” said City Councilmember Noel Gallo, who chairs the City Council Public Works Committee. “Whether it’s an office or a house or a neighborhood, order and cleanliness says a lot about who we are. We must aggressively begin ticketing people for illegal dumping, abandoned cars, and who put trash out on the curb before designated pickup time. The installation of cameras will certainly be an effective tool.”
Cherie Woods, a community leader with Faith In Action East Bay, a group which has been strongly advocating on illegal dumping-related issues for many years, said: “On behalf of community leaders from Faith In Action East Bay and Block by Block Organizing Network who have been collaborating with Oakland Public Works and Waste Management on Illegal Dumping issues, we would like to thank all of them for their hard work and dedication to secure and have cameras placed near Community School for Creative Education and throughout the city of Oakland. The cameras are one of the outcomes of a 5-year collaborative effort. We ask God to continue to guide us in keeping the streets of Oakland clean and safe.”
Paige Saechao Din, who is a 5th grade student at Community School for Creative Education, said, “Illegal dumping is harmful to the environment. I believe we clean together if we work together. Let’s work together to make Oakland better.”
“At OPW we are striving to reduce and ultimately eliminate illegal dumping by tackling the source, and today marks a new milestone in that work,” OPW Director G. Harold Duffey said. “I am thankful to our Mayor and City Council for providing OPW staff this resource to help us meet the demand from our community to hold offenders accountable. I also want to thank all our stakeholders for their advocacy and partnership, including community partners like Faith in Action East Bay.”
The camera system is purchased from Security Lines U.S., and the system itself is called the POD (Portable Observation Device) Surveillance System. City Council approved the installation of 10 units, which come at a price range of roughly $5,500 to $8,000 per unit depending on the model. The initial City costs are about $85,000. There are no mandatory annual maintenance service fees or initial per-camera licensing fees — ongoing costs consist of monthly cellular service. Pending a successful pilot, OPW will seek additional camera installations and work with City Council to approve and fund them.
- · Privacy: In December OPW staff presented plans for these cameras and their usage to the Oakland Privacy Advisory Commission, or PAC, which provides advice to the City of Oakland on best practices to protect Oaklanders’ privacy rights in connection with the City’s purchase and use of surveillance equipment and other technology that collects or stores our data. OPW thanks the PAC for its review and unanimous approval and has implemented the PAC’s recommendations. For example, OPW will not purchase or implement the additional equipment required to enable the cameras’ audio features; nor will the equipment analyze or archive license plate information. For a full list of the PAC-recommended privacy safeguards implemented in the camera program, see the OPW staff report reviewed by City Council in January.
- · Rebuilding Enforcement: OPW maintained a team of Litter Enforcement Officers from approximately 2001-2011. The team was defunded in 2011 during a time of significant budget reductions across the City organization. Illegal dumping reports increased significantly in the period following this defunding of enforcement. The EEO team is a modernized reimagining of that team and was funded with four civilian officers in 2019. The City has continued to invest in growing this team ever since.
- · Free Waste Disposal: Friday’s enforcement rollout comes as the latest step in OPW’s work to cut off and prevent illegal dumping at its sources. For many years, the City has increasingly invested in cleanup resources that are effective and accountable – picking up roughly triple the waste that was picked up just a decade ago. Recent strategies are focused “upstream,” seeking to prevent material from ending up on Oakland streets and sidewalks in the first place. In November, OPW and Waste Management of Alameda, Inc. (WMAC) announced major improvements to the free services available to all Oakland residents to dispose of household waste that won’t fit in their carts at home. These include free bulky pickup service available to residents and renters throughout Oakland; free bulky drop-off appointments available at WMAC’s Davis Street Resource Recovery Complex and Transfer Station (located at 2615 Davis Street in San Leandro); and monthly Bulky Block Party events hosted by OPW at 7101 Edgewater Drive on the last Saturday of every month, where residents are invited to drop off their unwanted items at no charge.
All Oakland community members can learn more about trash, recycling, and compost services available in Oakland by going to www.oaklandrecycles.com. Oaklanders can learn more about services available to combat and reduce illegal dumping – and learn how they themselves can help! – at www.oaktownproud.com.
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