GARY, Ind. (AP) — The new mayor of Gary said he's found a litany of sites around his financially struggling city that are littered with illegally dumped trash which can be found “in every crack and crevice."
Mayor Jerome Prince, who took office in January, said he’s seeking innovative approaches to address the long-running problem of unauthorized dumping in the northwestern Indiana city because only so much money is available to address the problem.
“The city has become a literal dumping ground all over the place in every crack and crevice you can imagine. It’s occurred to me we’ve got to do something creative to address this," Prince told The (Northwest Indiana) Times.
In late May, Prince gave his personal number to a private property owner living on a dead-end street on the city's south side so that he could be notified when someone dumps trash next door. He received a call June 1.
“We got a couple of units out here and caught them in the act,” said Prince, who noted that he struck a deal with the accused dumpers and they promised to clean up the site at their own expense. “They thought they were going to be brought to jail. They were pleading with us, they were crying.”
He said the they — like most of people dumping debris in Gary — weren't residents of the city.
Gary Police Officer Ed Tolliver said charges are pending against the alleged dumpers. He said they still must appear in court to address charges that include illegal dumping and criminal mischief to city property.
At the end of April, Prince announced that he approved the cleanup of more than 14,000 dumped tires from city-owned land.
Prince said he is brainstorming ways to augment code enforcement penalties for the most egregious of offenders and establish a more comprehensive approach to combat decay around the city.
“We need to do more, and what we do needs to have teeth,” Prince said.