Following concerted efforts to combat littering across Jackson, Judge Blake Anderson issued the maximum fine of $500 for criminal littering in four cases on Monday.
These hearings come as the first of 23 open cases involving criminal littering since a unanimous vote by the city council on Sept. 5 to amend the city's Municipal Code Title 17, which deals with trash disposal, to now include an anti-litter code.
In four unrelated cases, citizens all received a Class B misdemeanor charge and were ordered to pay the maximum fine of $500 for their respective roles in criminal littering.
Officer Rick Butler, who was elected as the designated litter officer in June of this year, testified in three of the four littering cases with the exception of one citizen, who pleaded guilty and inherently absolved the need for a trial.
Keep Jackson Beautiful Coordinator Danielle Wade explained that the city has been in what she described as an "education phase" over the last six months in preparation for litter ordinances to be approved. While the city offers a number of drop-off site dates for bulk waste and scheduling for trash pick-up, Wade says "we're past the warning phase."
"We've got a lot of options in Jackson," she said. "A lot of these other metro cities around Tennessee, they don't get twice-a-week pick-up, they don't get the free bulk [waste] pick-up and some have to go a county or two over just to hit a landfill. So I'm happy that there are people behind us that are tired of the trash too."
City councilmember Richard Donnell, District 4, who has been consistently vocal about the "vicious cycle" of littering in his district, was present at the hearings on Monday afternoon touting sentiments of gratitude for the precedent that was set in court on Monday.
"This is going to a be deterrent for other people who might try to do the same thing so I'm really pleased," Donnell said.
In one case, Donnell recalls a constituent of his district informing him of illegal dumping on the 400 block of N Hays Street in East Jackson. Donnell passed the concern over to Officer Butler, who made his way to the scene to find pallets, and trash bags full of mail.
In all four cases, mail found at each location played an instrumental role in Butler's ability to issue a misdemeanor citation and bring the individuals to court.
Adding that it takes a group effort, Butler works alongside city council members, community beautification programs like Love Your Block and Keep Jackson Beautiful, and the city's Health and Sanitation Department to curb the littering crisis.
"We're not turning a blind eye to it, we're actually doing something about it," Butler said.
This article originally appeared on Jackson Sun: Jackson judge issues max fine as city cracks down on illegal dumping