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October 6, 2012

Hidden cameras help bust illegal dumpers in Lawrence

LAWRENCE — High-tech cameras hidden along the new Spicket River greenway led state and city investigators to eight men who dumped truckloads of television sets, computers, furniture, mattresses, construction debris, tires and other junk in the new park in June and July.

All eight – including two who dumped loads twice in one day – were fined at least $300 and in some cases ordered to clean up the messes themselves.

Mayor William Lantigua hailed the new joint effort between the city and state Department of Environmental Protection and promised to continue to chase down “those that show no respect for our great city of Lawrence.”

The arrests countered often-heard claims by Lawrence officials that most of garbage and debris dumped in alleys, parks, vacant lots and curbsides around the city is brought in from out of town. Five of the eight arrested are from Lawrence, two from Methuen and one is from Haverhill.

The hidden cameras are part of a recently stepped-up effort to bust illegal dumpers in Lawrence, which also includes raising fines for illegal dumping to as much as $10,000 and allowing prosecutors to seek criminal penalties, including jail time, for those convicted.

Last year, the city spent $170,000 collect and dispose of 800 tons of illegally dumped trash.

“We’ve had people drop whole loads of hard top in the middle of the street,” acting Public Works Commissioner John Isensee said in asking for the additional money. “We get couches, chairs, TVs, refrigerators, roofing shingles — all the stuff people don’t want to pay to dispose of. They use whatever means necessary to get rid of it.”

The two cameras installed at “high risk locales” along the Spicket River can take tens of thousands of high resolution pictures over several weeks on one set of batteries, the DEP said in a press release describing the arrests issued yesterday. Both have infrared night vision capability and one is specially designed to read license plates at night, the DEP said.

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