Illegal Dumpers, “Big Brother” is Watching — And Arresting

Fort Worth uses 15 hidden cameras to crack down on illegal dumping.

A network of surveillance cameras in Fort Worth to crack down on illegal dumping has resulted in arrests and cleaner streets, city leaders say.

"The technology, yes, has gone far beyond what we expected," said Fort Worth Code Compliance director Brandon Bennett.

The city started installing 15 hidden cameras about a year ago in neighborhoods plagued by illegal dumping, which costs Fort Worth about $1 million to clean up.

The cameras are equipped with wireless technology and feed live pictures to city code enforcement officers, Bennett said. They roll 24 hours a day and can even read license plates.

In one case, on March 10, the cameras caught two men dumping more than 4,000 pounds of trash along a street in southeast Fort Worth.

The two men were arrested and now face up to two years in jail.

"We have zero tolerance," Bennett said. "Nobody gets a warning. Everybody gets arrested, and we push for the maximum. There's no plea bargains when you get caught for illegal dumping."

In 2004, the city made six arrests a year for illegal dumping.

Now, with the cameras and an increased focus, officers are making an arrest every day, Bennett said.

The cameras cost about $2,000 per unit, and city workers build them themselves to save money, he said.

"We have to take some of these neighborhoods back," Bennett said. "The people want us to do it, and we're up to the occasion."

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