If you call in a complaint to Lafayette city-parish government’s “litter hotline,” don’t expect much to come of it.
A special enforcement program launched in 2006 to let residents file their own reports on littering that could then be brought to a justice of the peace for action has been dormant for at least two years because of difficulties in finding local officials willing to handle the complaints.
It’s a failing that a new beautification program, which was announced last week, plans to address with a package of new anti-littering laws aimed at making it easier to prosecute folks who toss their trash on the ground.
The proposed litter laws, which must be approved by the City-Parish Council, are part of Project Front Yard, a comprehensive beautification initiative bringing together public art projects, tree plantings, proposals to bury power lines, and new strategies to address clutter and blight, among other things.
More robust litter laws — and better enforcement of litter laws in general — are a major component.
“There certainly hasn’t been the concentration of enforcement that there will be from here on out,” said Kevin Blanchard, city-parish chief development officer.
He said the administration plans to bring a package of anti-litter proposals to the council by November.
The proposals include a new traffic violation for throwing trash out of a vehicle, which would allow the citation to be prosecuted as a speeding ticket rather than having to work its way through the larger criminal court system.
“It’s another option for a police officer to pursue,” Blanchard said.
He said city-parish government will also revisit and tweak the 2006 law that created a local civil violation for littering, which is generally easier to enforce than a criminal violation.
The goal of the 2006 law was to allow residents who witnessed littering to take matters into their own hands by filing a sworn complaint with such information as license plate numbers, a general description of what they saw, and the time, date and place of the littering.
The law gave jurisdiction over the civil complaints to parish constables and justices of the peace, but city-parish government has had a difficult time finding many of those officials willing to take on the work, said Mark Pope, city-parish environmental quality manager.
“That’s been on hold for 2½ years,” Pope said.
His office was tasked with processing the initial litter complaints called in to Lafayette’s “litter hotline” telephone number, which is still advertised on the city-parish government’s website.
Pope said the one constable who had been handling litter complaints stepped down, in part for family reasons and in part because of frustration over the difficulties of enforcing the law.
“We made a concerted effort as best as we could to get another constable on board, and this sat dormant,” Pope said.
Blanchard said the plan is to tweak the 2006 littering ordinance, boosting the fine from $75 to $250 and allowing those citizen complaints to be brought not just to a justice of the peace but also to city court and state district court.
“We’re opening up the venues,” he said.
The plans for Project Front Yard include the creation of a special position in city-parish government to oversee anti-littering efforts, and the new strategy also envisions police more actively enforcing criminal littering violations, Lafayette Police Chief Jim Craft said.
The chief said his department plans to focus more on quality-of-life issues in general as part of the Project Front Yard initiative and will step up efforts targeting junked vehicles, blighted property and illegal dumping.
“It is well known that neatly trimmed and groomed front lawns with well-maintained homes contribute to crime reduction,” Craft said.