KNOX COUNTY, Tenn. — Knox County is cracking down on litter bugs. Knox County Sheriff's Office said last year, deputies arrested 30 people on littering-related charges. The county also issued 25 citations and 15 warnings.
Lt. Tom Walker investigates dumping sites and tracks litter back to its owner. If you are caught, he says, it's typically three strikes -- then you're under arrest.
"Most of it is shock, didn't know we could actually track them, didn't know they could be charged with that," Walker said.
That's the reaction most have when Lt. Walker shows up at the door with an arrest warrant. Lt. Walker said that only happens if you ignore the warning or citation.
"Repeat offenders, they get a citation. People who don't pay attention to citations, they get arrest warrants. It's usually when they get to that level, these are usually just habitual offenders and they learn pretty quickly that's not the thing to do," Walker said. "We've put up undercover cameras at known dump sites and track people down by car license plate numbers and things like that."
Walker says even small dumpers have a chance of getting caught but Knox County was primarily focused on the big fish - the tire dumpers.
"Litterers that just dump their everyday garbage, you know, 10 or 12 bags at a time in a ditch, we go out and investigate it by digging through the garbage and finding what we call identifying mail or letters that have their name and address on it," Walker said. "I've seen everything from 50 to 60 tires dumped all the way up to several hundred thousand dumped in one spot."
Dumping tires or large loads, Walker said, is a felony in Tennessee.
"I've arrested four people for the illegal tire dumping so that's kind of knocked out a lot of it. They seem to be the repeat offenders," Walker said.
Investigators are seeing more garbage dumpers than anything else. Last year, Keep Knoxville Beautiful picked up nearly 90,000 pounds of trash
"We should care because you know, our choices matter. It's for our children, it's for our future. Litter waste doesn't go away," Keep Knoxville Beautiful Executive Director Khann Chov said.
KKB is looking for volunteers for the North Knoxville Community Cleanup on March 4. The organization needs 350 volunteers to clean up 24 neighborhoods in one single day. To sign up for litter cleanup, click here.