Installation of Litter Cameras Moves Forward in Yorktown

Cameras may be placed at several litter “hotspots.” Credits: Stock Photo

YORKTOWN, N.Y. - Several major details have yet to be ironed out, but draft legislation to install litter cameras at several “hotspots” in town was introduced at last week’s Town Board work session.

Despite an imminent public hearing on the law, the Town Board has not finalized the cost of the cameras, how many cameras will be installed, or exactly where they will be installed.

“We kind of know we have some hotspots,” said Councilman Greg Bernard, who added that he and his fellow council members have not discussed the above questions “at this point.”

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Councilman Tom Diana said the hotspots include areas such as Wood Street in Jefferson Valley, which is so heavily littered that town crews are regularly dispatched to clean up the road.

Diana said the cameras would most likely be motion sensor, capturing an image every time a car drives past. It was not clear who would be responsible for reviewing the images, though Diana said he imagined it would be the Yorktown Police Department.

“That’s part of the details we haven’t worked out yet,” Diana said.

Bernard said whoever is responsible for reviewing the images would likely not sift through thousands of images daily, looking for litterers. Rather, a large item, like a discarded mattress, would be reported to the town, and the agency responsible for reviewing the images would search for that particular litterbug.

“I don’t know if we’d have someone reviewing them on a daily basis,” Bernard said.

Preferably, the litterbug’s license plate will be caught on camera. However, if it is not, Diana said the person’s image could be posted to Facebook or other social media sites, requesting the public’s help in identifying the litterer.

The Town Board also discussed the possibility of decoy cameras, in addition to the functioning cameras. Ideally, motorists would not be able to tell the difference between the “scarecrows” and the real thing, Bernard said.

The functioning and decoy cameras, while acting as a deterrent, would also help to generally raise awareness about littering, Bernard said. There may also be signs at the town’s entrances, telling motorists they may be photographed.

“Hopefully it will encourage them to keep the coffee cup until they get home,” Bernard said.

According to the draft legislation, a motorist caught littering from their vehicle would be fined $500. In almost all cases, the owner of the vehicle would be subject to the fine, regardless of who was driving the vehicle or who littered.

After determining the owner of the vehicle, the town code enforcement officer would then mail a notice of violation to that person. As with all criminal violations, the person would be able to contest the allegation or admit guilt.

Only under certain circumstances would the owner not be liable, such as a written lease agreement or a reported theft of the vehicle prior to the litter incident.

Litter is currently defined under the town code as: “Garbage, refuse and rubbish...and all other waste material which, if thrown or deposited...tends to create a danger of public health, safety and welfare or tends to create blight.” Diana said he was unsure whether motorists tossing banana peels, apple cores or other biodegradable items will be targeted as harshly as those who discard items such as coffee cups or beer cans.

A public hearing date has not been scheduled, though Councilman Vishnu Patel said he supports any legislation that will reduce pollution.

“Whatever we can do to make the town look better,” he said. “It’s a really good idea to do this thing.”

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