Seattle Public Utilities pilot program aims to reduce illegal dumping with motion-activated cameras

Seattle Public Utilities is launching a new pilot program aimed at reducing illegal dumping.

A motion-activated camera has been installed in an industrial section of West Seattle, on Detroit Avenue Southwest near Southwest Myrtle Street. Signage has been posted in the area to notify the public about the camera.

The technology will play a “deterrence message” 30 seconds after the camera is activated. If the camera continues to detect motion, it will capture images of individuals and vehicles for further investigation.

SPU’s Clean City Enforcement Manager would then review the images. If they found someone responsible for illegal dumping, they would then reach out to the person responsible to find a resolution, such as violation fees or community service.

“When items like TVs, computers, furniture, tires, construction debris, yard waste, solvents and other potentially hazardous liquids are dumped on roadsides, streets, and alleys, it affects all of us,” said Lee Momon, SPU Clean City Division Director. “It burdens taxpayers and neighbors and creates unsafe, unhealthy, and unsightly conditions for the community.”

If SPU determines that the camera captured images of an individual not involved in illegal dumping, those images would be deleted or redacted.

“The City of Seattle takes privacy very seriously, and this pilot program is solely focused on preventing illegal dumping and holding those committing the illegal action accountable. We will monitor its outcomes to make adjustments as needed and continue to improve service,” said SPU Chief Operating Officer Marco Lowe.

SPU says similar programs have seen success in other cities with illegal dumping issues, such as Chicago and Oakland.

It plans to install at least one more camera on city-owned land, with a high frequency of illegal dumping, by the end of the year.

Last year, the city of Seattle spent more than $1.7 million to address illegal dumping and collected over 8.5 million pounds of illegally discarded waste, according to SPU.