Philly readies for clean sweep, while cameras keep tabs on dumping hot spots

During Philadelphia’s annual “Spring Cleanup” Saturday, city officials estimate that volunteers will remove up to 2,000 tons of litter from the streets. One key to keeping streets clean may come from one of the city’s highest-tech weapons in the war on trash.

They’re sleek. Solar-powered. Motion-sensitive and bulletproof. You may not see them, but if you’re illegally dumping trash on a dead-end street in Philadelphia, chances are they see you.

The city has rigged up hidden cameras at 16 known trouble spots for large-scale litter.

And if you’re caught, the penalties are steep.

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“They could be found criminally liable and pay a fine up to $5,000 and confiscation of a vehicle if it’s used in the act of illegal dumping,” said Carlton Williams, deputy of the city’s streets department.

He says that unauthorized garbage dumping costs the city more than $1.5 million a year, and contributes to the nickname he hates: “Filthadelphia.”

“I never want to be associated with that name and I don’t think the city deserves that. We have a beautiful city; some areas are more challenging than others,” said Williams. “We just have to change some attitudes to learn how to respect it more.”

Each hidden camera costs between $5,000 and $10,000. The city plans to purchase an additional 12 of the devices using a grant from the state Department of Environmental Protection.

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