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Don't Dump on Colton, City Warns

Council gives initial approval to a law that will allow police to seize and sell the vehicles of people caught discarding junk.

June 19, 2003|Hugo Martin | Times Staff Writer

Thinking about dumping an old sofa or a broken refrigerator on a side street in Colton? If you do, you might end up losing the car that got you there.

To combat the stubborn problem of illegal dumping, the Colton City Council gave preliminary approval Tuesday to a law that will let police seize the vehicles of anyone caught dumping in the city.

The law, expected to take effect in August, is modeled after ordinances adopted in several cities nationwide that let law enforcement officials seize vehicles used in drug sales, street racing and prostitution.

Colton took the idea of extending that punishment to vehicles used in the act of illegal dumping from Riverside, which adopted a similar anti-dumping law in January.

In Colton, police say the problem of illegal dumping has been persistent, particularly around rural, uninhabited roads.

"What better way to hurt the violator than to take their car?" Colton Police Lt. Frank Coe said.

Anyone caught dumping on public streets or alleys now faces fines up to $500 per violation. Under the proposed law, if police have evidence that a vehicle was used to illegally dump trash, the city attorney can ask a judge to order the vehicle seized and sold. The proceeds of the sale will pay for the cost of the seizure, transportation, towing and the attorney's fees, with the balance of the money going to the city's general fund.

If the vehicle is owned by someone other than the person caught in the act, the vehicle will be returned to the legal owner.

During the Colton City Council meeting Tuesday, Councilman Richard DeLaRosa, who also works as a corrections officer, said he supported the new law because illegal dumping has been a huge nuisance for the city.

Coe explained that the law will not be used to punish motorists who throw cigarette butts, fast food wrappers or other litter from a vehicle.

The problem of illegal dumping is particularly bad around three landfills just south of the San Bernardino Freeway and east of Interstate 215. Coe said he thinks much of the dumping takes place when people from outside of Colton haul a load of rubbish to one of the landfills and discover that it is closed or does not accept household trash.

"If I were to venture a guess, I would say that about 75% of the illegal dumping comes from outside the city of Colton," he said.

Coe's theory seems to have merit. On Agua Mansa Road, tattered sofas, broken television sets, water heaters and stained mattresses litter the shoulder of the isolated road leading to the Agua Mansa Landfill, which accepts only concrete, rubble and dirt. Just south of Agua Mansa Road, across the Santa Ana River, is the county-run Colton Landfill, which accepts household waste but only on Mondays and Fridays.

On nearby Slover Avenue, a rutted two-lane road bordered by vacant land, the shoulders are littered with enough chairs, sofas and mattresses to furnish a hotel. Mounds of tires, mattresses, yard waste, cans of used oil and children's clothes line each side of the road for nearly half a mile.

Coe said he expects illegal dumping will drop sharply after the first few vehicles are seized under the new law.

"We think after we seize a few cars, the word will get out," he said.

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