Jasper, Tenn., officials continue to have problems catching, prosecuting litterers

Jasper, Tenn., officials continue to have problems catching, prosecuting litterers

February 19th, 2018 by Ryan Lewis in Local Regional News

JASPER, Tenn. — Littering in Jasper continues to be a frustrating problem for Mayor Paul Evans.

At the February meeting of the Jasper Board of Mayor and Aldermen, Evans said there are some particularly troublesome areas for littering around town, including vacant sections of North Pryor Cove Road, Turner Street and Industrial Boulevard.

"In places it's better, but other places it's gotten worse," he said. "Especially those three places right there because there's nobody living there right in those stretches, and I think it's easy to do."

To get a citation for the offense, a police officer has to witness the violation in most cases.

City Attorney Mark Raines said the penalty for a citation to City Court is a $50 fine plus court costs, but that could be imposed as a daily fine for each day an offender is in violation.

Jasper, Tenn., Mayor Paul Evans displays a folder full of certified letters that he says he's sent out to landowners trying to get them to clean up their properties.

Jasper, Tenn., Mayor Paul Evans displays a folder...

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

"That's the maximum we can impose," he said. "If they bring them through Sessions [Court], it depends on how much trash volume."

Those charges could range from a class C misdemeanor to a felony, Raines said.

"It would take a lot of trash and litter to get it up to that level," he said. "If it's a big bunch of boxes or a truckload of boxes, it's going to be different than throwing a Krystal's sack out."

Jasper Police Lt. Scott Evans said litter offenders are typically cited to Sessions Court for an important reason.

"On the littering, if they don't show up for [City] Court, then the only thing we've got is suspending their driver's license, and they won't do that for littering," he said. "If they don't show up for Sessions Court, they can get a failure to appear warrant issued for them."

Failure to appear in Sessions Court is a minimum class A misdemeanor, Raines said.

Unfortunately, it's rare for law-abiding citizens to report littering, Lt. Evans said.

Police Chief Billy Mason said his department took a call about illegal dumping recently, but the violators were long gone by the time an officer arrived.

It appeared someone had dumped waste from a home improvement project, but there was no way to track where the material originated.

"If somebody comes in and says, 'Joe Smith — I just saw a box fly out of his truck,' unless that person is willing to come into court and testify, the officer needs to see it," Raines said.

If litter is found with identifiers, such as names on documents, he said that could be considered probable cause to issue a citation.

Raines said city leaders should consider positioning cameras in those trouble spots.

"Get them on film," he said.

For now, city workers will go about the process of getting those identified areas cleaned up.

"We're going to do what we can when we can," Evans said.

Ryan Lewis is based in Marion County. Contact him at ryanlewis34@gmail.com.