Anti-litter letters drafted by police

Saturday, June 25, 2005

A final decision on the letters rests with a committee with members of state, local government.

An anti-litter campaign may target those who throw trash out of cars by singling them out in letters on the basis of complaints made to the local CrimeStoppers hotline.

Cape Girardeau police Capt. Carl Kinnison, who chairs a group of area law enforcement officers who proposed the idea, said the letter isn't a citation. There's no prosecution, he said.

The goal is to make people aware that it is wrong to litter, he said.

A letter has been drafted. A final decision rests with an anti-litter committee, which includes representatives from the Missouri Department of Transportation and local governments in Cape Girardeau County and Scott City.

Kinnison serves on the committee, which has a goal of getting the area cleaned up by the Fourth of July and implementing a permanent program of litter control. The anti-litter letters would be part of that ongoing effort.

Here's how the anti-litter program would work:

* People who witness a littering incident would call the Southeast Missouri Crimestoppers hotline at 332-0500 and report the vehicle's license plate number. Cape Girardeau police would use the license plate number to identify the vehicle's owner.

* The form letter then would be mailed to the owner.

Kinnison said piggybacking onto the CrimeStoppers program means police don't have to provide added manpower or another telephone line.

Industrial recruiter Mitch Robinson, who serves on the CrimeStoppers board of directors, likes the idea. "It is a good use of a system that is already in place," he said.

But unlike CrimeStoppers, there's no reward money for anti-litter tips.

The board raises funds to pay reward money for tips that help solve crimes. But there's no money in the pot to deal with littering, he said.

The proposed letter campaign won't always properly identify litterbugs, Kinnison said.

People don't always remember the right license plate number. Even when the number is correct, it's possible that it wasn't the vehicle owner who littered, Kinnison said.

As a result, the form letter makes it clear that the accusation may be false.

"If it is in error, please accept our apologies and we hope you understand that this process is just one of many efforts on the part of residents of Southeast Missouri to keep their community clean," a draft of the letter states.

The letter also reminds recipients that both state and local laws prohibit littering.

Kinnison doesn't know how many anti-litter calls would come into the hotline, and he said that the program could upset some people.

Missouri's highway safety office years ago had a similar program regarding children who weren't buckled up in cars.

"They stopped doing that because they got so many calls from people upset by getting postcards saying they were seen with a child not buckled up," Kinnison said. "When you send out letters, you are basically accusing someone of something."

But he said the proposed anti-litter letter's inclusion of an apology is intended to avoid offending people.

mbliss@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 123

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