People who throw trash out car windows had better beware.
The Bibb County Sheriff’s Office may get your tag number.
The Keep Macon-Bibb Beautiful Commission has created a Litter Hotline to catch violators of anti-littering laws.
“You hate to be punitive, but you’ve got to do something,” said Pam Carswell, the agency’s executive director. “People are throwing their lunch bags out because they don’t want their cars dirty, but we don’t want our streets dirty, either.”
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Before, frustrated witnesses only silently seethed at the sight of cigarette butts being tossed at a traffic light or a fast-food garbage flung to the wayside.
The hotline idea came from Stacee Farrell, of the Keep Athens-Clarke County Beautiful Commission. It launched the anonymous tipster campaign about 10 years ago.
Those who see someone throwing litter from a vehicle are asked to get the license plate number and state of origin, plus a description of the vehicle and type of trash discarded.
Callers give the date, time and location of the violation.
In the home county of the University of Georgia, KACCB gets up to 200 calls per year, depending on how fresh the memory is from the last marketing campaign.
“It gives people the opportunity to remember litter makes our community unsightly,” Farrell said.
They refresh public service announcements every couple of years to catch new students in town.
At Cherry Blossom Festival headquarters downtown, a dedicated phone line, 478-330-7053, receives calls.
The commission will record the information on a form that will be forwarded to the sheriff’s office.
An investigator will trace the license plate back to the owner, who will receive a notice on joint letterhead from the sheriff’s office and KMBBC.
The notice includes the code of ordinances governing littering and illegal dumping.
“Please allow this letter to serve as a warning to you and your passengers. The Bibb County Sheriff’s Office and Keep Macon-Bibb Beautiful Commission are working together to decrease roadside litter in our community,” the letter states.
After a second offense in the most serious cases, a violator could be fined up to $1,000, possibly sentenced to a work detail for up to 60 days or sent to jail for no more than 180 days.
Bibb County Sheriff David Davis believes it will be more of a public awareness campaign than it is a prosecution tool.
A witness would have to identify the offender and be willing to testify to make charges stick.
He sees the anonymity an asset for encouraging more people to call.
“A lot of times littering is hard to catch unless you’re there when someone throws something out,” Davis said.
“The public can help us and become our eyes and our ears without having any contact with the litterer.”
If the vehicle owner was not the offender, the letter gives that person the opportunity to scold whoever let the litter fly.
Carswell wants tipsters to get as much information as possible.
“The better description you can give us, the better we can track them,” she said.
She and the sheriff both think the hotline could effectively reduce littering.
“To know people may be watching,” Davis said. “It makes people more aware and brings more people in to solve the problem.”
KMBBC is beginning to spread the word by advertising the campaign at the movie theater and on rack cards throughout the county.
The commission advocates a “365 Pick Up” where all property owners, businesses and residents are urged to pick up rubbish daily from their own patch of land.
“If everyone cleans up 365 days a year around their space, we’d have a clean city,” Carswell said. “You only have one chance to make a first impression for our visitors.”
To contact writer Liz Fabian, call 744-4303 and follow her on Twitter @liz_lines.