311 Confirms that the City of Pittsburgh doesn’t really investigate illegal dumping

I just spoke with 311 about the dumping incident I witnessed yesterday.  She told me that it is very complicated to enforce the dumping regulations so most of the time, Building Inspection just makes the property owners clean it up. 

NOTE:  while i am well aware that the City will deny this or speak in circles about being overwhelmed by all those pesky people complaining about lawbreakers, i am simply reporting what she said to me. 

That sucks.  Why should the property owners get all of the blame, especially when you have eyewitnesses to the dumping?  I mean in this case, PennDOT should share some of the burden b/c they allowed the lot to deteriorate to the point of creating a dumping-friendly zone.  But the City's position means that our state tax dollars go to clean up a mess made by a private company who gets not so much as a slap on the wrist.

Wow.  That's a sweet deal for the City b/c they don't have to expend very many resources and the problem is still solved.  Sort of.  What a great abuse of power! 

I also put in a request for my $500 reward for reporting dumping in 2006.  (See post below for the Post-Gazette link).   I was told that unless the law department has proof of legal action, there is no reward b/c they can't just take my word for it.

Again, sweet maneuver on the part of the City.  In this case, the policeman who responded to the call failed to cite the dumper (and lied to me about his reasons for doing so).  The company cleaned it up, but they still should have been cited.  The fact that the City failed to do so means they save more resources and save themselves a $500 reward.

My bad that I didn't push for an investigation of the police incident at the time.  The City's bad that they have a cop who doesn't follow the rules (shocker!) or devalues the crime of dumping enough to lie for the criminals.  The City's bad that they forced PennDOT's hand to keep their own hands free.  And the City's bad that it took a Post-Gazette article to make something happen.

I did some research and it appears that the “reward fund” is funded by a portion of the fines.  If Building Inspection fails to levy fines, there's obviously no reward monies.  Or is there?

601.15  REWARDS.

(a)   The City Controller is hereby authorized and directed to establish a special trust fund known as the Illegal Dumping Trust Fund for the receipt and deposit of the fines resulting from violations of § 601.11. A portion of the funds shall be used specifically for rewards, public awareness and costs associated with the investigation and surveillance of illegal dumping activity.
(b)   The Director of Public Safety shall grant rewards up to the sum of five hundred dollars ($500.00) to individuals, organizations or other entities who provide information leading to the arrest and conviction of any individual, firm or corporation violating § 601.11.
(c)   The rewards shall be granted from the Department of Public Safety Community Crime Prevention Trust Fund, the Illegal Dumping Trust Fund or such other Trust Fund or Code Account within the Department of Public Safety, as the Director shall deem appropriate.

By connecting the reward to the arrest and conviction, the City artfully sidesteps the whole issue if they don't arrest or convict anyone.  Slick, guys. 

The teeny drawback in the equation is losing the incentive to report criminal activity.  My experience with the dumper (MAC and 43rd Street Concerete), the property owner (PennDOT) and the enforcer (City of Pittsburgh) has been like walking upstream wearing rocks in my waders. 

So now I wait on a call back from the City Solicitor's office to inform me if they fined 43rd Street Concrete, the driver, the owner or so forth. (The online Magisterial site doesn't give me that information).  They may have been satisfied with the clean up and let it go at that.  This seems highly inconsistent with the Redd Up crew philosophy.  Why not enforce the dumping law?

On a related note, I find it very sad how many public officials are “complaining” about the high volume of calls on the 311 line, especially those calling to complain about unkempt properties.  Isn't that why the service was created?  You can't cry out “foul” when people remain mum on violent crime and then try to shush them when they do take some actions to reclaim their neighborhoods from non-violent criminals and scofflaws.  If you don't treat our small steps with courtesy and a timely response, why should we trust you when it comes to “snitching” on more serious matters? 


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  • It's “complicated”, huh? I wonder if that's anything like “thorny”?
    They owe you $500. Assuming they've ever levied any fines to go in that trust fund. I'll have to mention this soon.

  • Hey Bram. Do you think PennDOT knows I supported Hillary and this is my punishment? Kidding.
    What are the odds the City will talk with you about that reward fund, much less give me my reward? It would be interesting to see how many rewards they have issued since the ordinance came to be. It seems like you'd have to start with the City Solicitor's office to get that information.
    I should write to Cat Specter for advice.

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