- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 1, 2011

It seemed like a simple solution to an obvious problem.

Trash was gathering in city streets, so to discourage littering the D.C. Council authorized police to issue tickets to anyone who so much as flicked a cigarette butt.

That was in December 2008.

More than two years since the legislation passed, police on Sunday began writing citations to people who seem to think their trash should be someone else’s concern.

“At the end of the day, of course we wanted u it to move more quickly than it has, but I’m satisfied this administration has made this a priority,” said D.C. Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown of the anti-littering bill he initially introduced in January 2007.

“Residents are tired of all of this litter and trash throughout the city,” said Mr. Brown, a Democrat. “The idea is to increase the quality of life and keep our city clean.”

Previously, only Department of Public Works ticket-writers could issue citations for littering - but they rarely did so, Mr. Brown said. One of the difficulties they encountered when trying to enforce the law was that they didn’t have the authority to demand identification from an individual to write a citation.

The 2008 legislation gives Metropolitan Police Department officers and DPW employees authority to require people to identify themselves. Suspected offenders who refuse can be arrested on the spot.

So why the delay in implementing the law?

Additional legislation was needed to process juveniles who are ticketed, said Sgt. Keith DuBeau of the police department’s Strategic Services Bureau.

Another bill was required to clarify that juvenile confidentiality laws for law-enforcement records did not apply to civil violations, such as littering. Without the change, the city’s Office of Administrative Hearings, which oversees the ticketing process rather than the court system, wouldn’t have been able to handle violations involving juveniles without establishing its own confidentiality protocol, Sgt. DuBeau said.

Another section of the 2008 legislation, which is already in effect citywide, fines drivers $100 for any trash thrown from their vehicle.

But on Sunday, MPD officers in the department’s 4th District began to issue warnings to people caught littering. Beginning June 1, officers will issue $75 fines.

The enforcement is part of a pilot program that will run for several months before launching citywide. Sgt. DuBeau said the time is needed to work out any kinks in the hearing process and to gauge the resources needed to handle the new influx of tickets. He estimated that the earliest the program could begin citywide is mid-fall.

Resident Nancy Roth said she is often dismayed by the number of liquor bottles and snack wrappers she finds lining her street. Ms. Roth, whose Ward 4 neighborhood is part of the pilot program, hopes the police department’s involvement will help curb the amount of trash carelessly tossed on the ground, but she remains doubtful that writing tickets is the best solution.

“If you’re going to tell people ‘Don’t throw this on the ground,’ you have to give them an alternative,” she said. “Can the city be persuaded in this time of budgetary uncertainty to put more trash cans out in the neighborhood and then keep them maintained?”

The ticketing approach, she laments, seems like a minimal solution.

“That’s working person-by-person instead of communitywide,” Ms. Roth said. “It’s a whole community mindset that has to be attacked from a community level. If this is all they are doing, I guess it’s better than nothing.”

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