County using hidden cameras to catch illegal dumpers

Bexar County Environmental Services Department says it’s cracking down on people leaving trash in streets, lots, and alleys

Bexar County announced Wednesday that two people have been arrested for illegal dumping in the Camelot neighborhood. KSAT's Garrett Brnger spoke with the Environmental Services Department about what they're doing to fight a nuisance that affects people countywide.

San Antonio – Trash bags, furniture, and other assorted filth are piled high behind the vacant home next to Irma Soto.

Soto said the alleyway behind the burned-out house in the Camelot II neighborhood is an all too commonly-used dumping ground, and she’s tired of it.

“It’s very disgusting because of the smell, the rats, and people do it all the time,” Soto said.

But investigators with the county’s Environmental Services Department are trying to make sure those people aren’t throwing out their trash with impunity. Surveillance cameras recently caught a man throwing a couch on top of the pile, and investigators said they were able to identify him and issue a warrant for illegal dumping.

Surveillance cameras in the Camelot II neighborhood catch a man adding to an illegal dumping pile. Investigators say a warrant has been issued for his arrest. (Bexar County)

Billie Dorries, a senior environmental crimes investigator with the county’s Environmental Services Department, said the department has become more involved in combating illegal dumping.

“We’ve had several arrests in the recent history, and we have noticed a marked difference in the illegal dumping. But in Bexar County, it is a pretty severe issue that we’re addressing,” Dorries said.

The county’s methods have included cameras out in the open to act as a deterrent, but also discreet surveillance cameras at dumping hotspots where they can capture faces and license plates.

In June, the county trumpeted the arrest of three other people who had been caught on county surveillance video dumping trash in the Camelot II neighborhood.

READ MORE: 3 people arrested for illegally dumping several hundred pounds of garbage in east Bexar County

The video, which the county shared online, shows the group talking trash too, yelling “Merry Christmas!” and “See you next year, b******!” as they sling bags in the 8000 block of Chipping Drive.

The county’s cameras, Dorries said, face public areas and not into people’s homes, and they ask permission if they want to install them on private property.

It’s not always hidden cameras getting the job done, though. Two arrests announced on Wednesday came after the county said a person driving by snapped photos of a man and woman throwing out mattresses and box springs, also in the Camelot II neighborhood.

While the woman, Rhonda Dutton, was hit with a Class B Misdemeanor charge of illegal dumping between five and 500 pounds, the man, Larry Williams, was hit with a state jail felony charge of illegally dumping more than 200 pounds for a commercial purpose since investigators said he was running a business.

READ MORE: 2 people arrested for dumping mattresses, box springs, county officials say

A driver passing by snapped photos of two people dumping mattresses and box springs, which led to their arrests (KSAT)

PREVENTION

Dorries said the county isn’t just relying on enforcement though to fix the county’s illegal dumping problem.

The county has a program covering five neighborhoods, including Camelot II, that provides mandatory trash service for a special rate -- $27 for most residents and $24 for seniors and disabled people.

“The belief is that if residents are already paying for trash service, they will be less likely to resort to illegal dumping to dispose of waste,” states a county webpage on the program.

If you live in Camelot II, Candlewood, Glen - North, Glen - South, or Crownwood and would like information on signing up, click HERE.


About the Authors:

Garrett Brnger is a reporter with KSAT 12.

Luis Cienfuegos is a photographer at KSAT 12.