Warning, kids help fight litter

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 21, 2002

Messenger Intern

Troy’s anti-litter committee has learned two good lessons: One, children are more influential than we realize and, two, fear really is the beginning of understanding.

Those lessons are tied to two key initiatives of the city-sponsored committee charged with keeping Troy clean, which met earlier this week. And the lessons apply to one new initiative and one ongoing program.

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The city learned the strength of a child’s influence through the city’s recycling program, which started off as a dud until the city targeted children.

"We taught kids about recycling and all of sudden it blossomed. The influx was almost an overnight thing then," said Mayor Jimmy Lunsford said.

The committee has created all kind of gimmicks to motivate the children, and Litterman has even paid a couple of visits to reinforce the importance of not littering.

However, in the adult world, people are not as easily swayed by a superhero whose magnetic powers attract litter.

"Cleaning up is not the only solution. We’ve got to do something to impress upon people not to throw it out the window to begin with. Education is a hundred times more effective than enforcement. We’ve got to educate the people.

"I like to think we live in a first-class community, but it makes me sick when I drive down the streets," Lunsford said.

That’s where the fear comes into play. Now, anyone found tossing litter from vehicle windows or dumping trash could find themselves walking around town picking up trash — and sporting a bright orange vest. The fines for littering increase with each offense, starting at $100 for the first, $300 for the second and $500 for the third.

The key to success will be in catching the litterbugs, local officials said.

"There has to be an example made, but how do you catch them?" said Sgt. Benny Scarbrough, public information office for the Troy Police department "It has to occur in our presence or we have to have someone who is willing to be cited as seeing it. Dumping is different, though. It’s a little easier."

Even though Lunsford said he does not expect law enforcement to make litter patrol their number one priority, he said he hopes it can be incorporated with their normal responsibilities.

"It’s just the thought [of the consequences]. It’s just like when the police had a mannequin set up in the police car on (U.S.) 231. People would drive by and say, ‘Gosh, I hope he doesn’t clock me,’" said Jeff Cotton, who represents the Civitan Club on the committee.

Dr. Doc Anderson, who represented Troy State University, said litter is a good way to persuade new industry not to come to Troy.

"They’re going to look at our schools and they’re going to look at our quality of life. If we want to improve the quality of life, we’re going to have to attract industry and improve [TSU] enrollment," Anderson said. "There isn’t a street in this town that isn’t filthy, and, when you drive through, all you see is the remains of store fronts. It’s just lack of pride.

Anderson went on to say that he believes the community is capable of "cleaning up."

"If we can raise [$206,135] for Relay For Life, we can clean up this town. We’re not making any money, but we’re out there taking back our streets. We need to make it glaring so it will stand out in their minds that they’re not going to trash our city, " he said.

The committee also discussed the possibility of using incentives and placing reminders around town where littering is the most severe.

Anyone with a passion for fighting litter and who is interested in joining the committee should contact Jennifer Martin at 566-0177.