Pittsburgh vows to get tough on littering

Don't Trash My Turf warns waste-droppers of possible arrests

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Missy Rosenfeld has been cleaning up other people's messes along the streets of Pittsburgh for eight years, without complaint, but she's getting tired of having to do it over and over again.

"It feels so good when [a neighborhood cleanup] is done," said Ms. Rosenfeld, 43, of Carrick, who is the city's new anti-litter coordinator. "The next day you drive down your street and you see it littered again, and it almost feels as though your effort is in vain, though it's not."

Ms. Rosenfeld's job, which she started three weeks ago, is to make sure the cleanup continues. She's already got a new tool: the Don't Trash My Turf campaign, launched Friday, which will remind people not to litter, and potentially punish those who do it anyway.

"That's when they'll finally get the message -- when you hit them in the wallet," said Ms. Rosenfeld, as the sun beat down on the region's anti-littering royalty that had assembled for a news conference at squeaky-clean Market Square.

The new slogan of Don't Trash My Turf is more strident than the old Don't Be a Litterbug mantra, and officials said that's not just bluster.

"No matter what place you call home turf, you want it to be a clean, safe haven for you and your family," said Dave Mazza, regional coordinator for the Pennsylvania Resources Council, which is joining the city in spearheading the campaign. "I take pride in my own turf, and I take it as a personal insult when others do not."

The new slogan will be featured on TV commercials with Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, Steelers receiver Emmanuel Sanders and radio personality Bubba Snider. It will be funded with a $45,000 grant from the Colcom Foundation.

Volunteers will continue with cleanups, often aided by the city Public Works Department and newly coordinated by Ms. Rosenfeld, and will also reach out to schools in hopes of indoctrinating students to the anti-littering message.

Those who don't listen may pay.

"We're greenlighting a more aggressive enforcement campaign to attempt to really let people know that we're serious about this," Mr. Ravenstahl said. Police "will be looking for [litterers] and have an increased awareness throughout the bureau."

"When you see somebody litter, you might see a police officer behind them issuing a citation," said Pittsburgh Councilwoman Theresa Kail-Smith. "Our Zone 6 officers were able to issue citations for people throwing litter down as they're walking."

Now officers in each zone will be asked to spend a set, but limited time busting litterbugs. The city code calls for a $15 fine for first-time litterbugs.

The city will also communicate with district judges to encourage them to write littering fines that stick, rather than too-large fines that might be overturned on appeal, Ms. Kail-Smith said.

The city will step up a program of rotating cameras through known illegal dumping areas in an effort to catch those who unload trucks full of trash on hillsides and at the ends of streets. That worked last year in the city's western neighborhoods, said Ms. Kail-Smith. An illegal dumper was caught on tape, fined and forced to pay cleanup costs.

"The enforcement piece is the one piece that still is not done as well as it can be," said Boris Weinstein, founder of Citizens Against Litter. "When the message is successful, and I think it will be successful, and more people are dropping less litter, it's going to make it much easier for the hundreds and thousands of people who are concerned about litter to pick it all up."

More information is available at donttrashmyturf.org.

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Rich Lord: rlord@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1542. First Published May 19, 2012 4:00 AM


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