'Litter pirates' be forewarned: Trash thrown on Dougherty roadways can be expensive

Sep. 9—ALBANY — Dougherty County officials say they hope that the recent identification and prosecution of a littering suspect will send a message that they are serious about prosecuting individuals who illegally dump trash.

The Dougherty County Police Department cited the suspect, who was identified as Donnie Hall of 404 Pine Glen Drive, according to Judy Bowles, the executive director of Keep Albany-Dougherty Beautiful. Garbage and strewn trash were found in the 1200 block of Gaissert Road.

Paperwork mixed in with the garbage allowed authorities to identify Hall, she said.

Bowles encouraged residents to take action when they see someone throwing garbage out on roadways. As the signs placed along highways warn, littering can bring a fine of up to $1,000 under state law.

"What we advocate for is for citizens, when they see someone littering, to get a picture of the vehicle — but not while they are driving. Get a tag number, make and model and color of the vehicle," she said. "Littering is an issue for our community as well as nationally. Law enforcement can't be everywhere and see everything."

Communities where roadways are littered with trash are not just eyesores for residents, Bowles said. They can also be a deterrent for companies looking to locate in the area.

"It's an economic development issue," she said. "If we're going to get new industry and get new jobs here, we need to keep our community clean. We also need to all have more pride in our community."

Garbage tossed in the back of a pickup truck also has a tendency to blow out, and a can that strikes a windshield or paper that obstructs a driver's vision can pose a safety hazard, Bowles said.

"We have a lot of garbage that comes out of pickup trucks," she said.

The county is serious about littering and is looking to ticket violators, District 6 Dougherty County Commissioner Anthony Jones said. Police have been instructed to look out for individuals hauling garbage to the landfill in unsecured vehicles that allow it to blow out while en route.

"Certainly we will prosecute anybody we can catch," Jones said. "Littering is a terrible thing throughout the city and the county. Until we can get some folks prosecuted, littering will always be a problem."

Residents also need to be educated, the commissioner said, and one of the best ways to make the message stick is to teach children to help influence their parents' actions.

He recounted how when his children were young, one of them had recently been taught about the issue at school and insisted Jones turn around and pick up a piece of paper that flew out of his car without his noticing while he was driving.

"He said, 'Daddy, daddy, you've got to stop and pick it up,' and I did," Jones said.

For those who need additional incentive, there are fines, the commissioner pointed out.

"I call them litter pirates," Jones said. "They don't care; they don't care about the community. We've got to get these litter pirates in front of a judge so we can stop these people who are throwing out trash.

"When we catch someone, we've got to hit them in the wallet where it counts."