Growing number of illegal dumping sites across Houston

HOUSTON – It’s a widespread problem across Harris County and Houston -- illegal dumping.  

The Harris County Constable’s Office Precinct 1 environmental unit has been tasked with catching the people who dump illegally. 

They have 80 surveillance cameras fanned out across the trouble spots that seem to load up daily with trash.

One of those locations is on Houston’s East Side.

Precinct 1 Constable Alan Rosen asked KPRC2 not to reveal the location of the cameras because they are actively looking into who illegally dumped at a site that’s filled with construction materials, trash and even a discarded hot tub. 

A recent surveillance video from the site shows two men unloading roofing materials on top of the trash that already was piled up there. In all, six truckloads of debris were dropped off.

Precinct 1 environmental unit officials were watching and that unit is now working to track down the dumpers.

On that same street, there are other pockets where people have illegally left their trash.

It’s frustrating for Arthur Williams, who owns rental properties here and gets regular calls from tenants and neighbors who complain. He then calls 311.

"That pile there, it will be twice that size by the end of five days,” Williams said.

Once the city of Houston comes by to pick it up, Williams said another pile forms in two weeks.

Illegal dumping has been an ongoing problem for Harris County and Houston. Surveillance cameras have caught people dropping off furniture and trash.

Just this week, KPRC2 covered another illegal dumping site in Northeast Harris County where one of the surveillance cameras caught someone dumping a BBQ grill.

STORY: Illegal dumping site cleanup underway in NE Harris County

In 2016, Constable Rosen said they caught someone on video taking an ATM out of their truck and dumping it at an illegal site. 

The environmental unit has a wall of monitors to keep an eye on the hot spots.

"We are (a) one-stop shop,” Rosen said.  “We monitor the cameras, as you can see behind me is a 24-hours-a-day live feed of illegal dumping sites."

There have been cases where the cameras also caught other crimes on video.

Last year, Rosen said the cameras caught an adult beating a child over 60 times. In another incident, investigators spotted someone dumping marijuana at a site.

It led to a $1.7 million drug bust.

Currently, 80 surveillance cameras are set up across the Houston area.

Rosen said more cameras are expected to be installed.

Officials received a $100,000 grant to buy more cameras.

For property owners like Arthur Williams, one of the main complaints is that the trash does not get picked up fast enough.

"I'd like to see the city come out and take care of this problem, because over in the part of town where I live at, this wouldn't last a day," Williams said.

Officials said the cameras are moved based on complaints and some of the delay comes from setting up cameras and trying to catch the people responsible.

“Our message is don't illegally dump,” Rosen said. “There are too many other ways to get rid of trash properly. You don't know if where you illegally dumped, there's going to be a camera watching and recording here. We’ll be sending charges to the District Attorney's Office to pay for that.”

Anyone caught illegally dumping -- and depending on what product is dumped -- will face fines that can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars.

To report illegal dumping sites in your area, you can call 832-927-1567 or email environmental@cn1.hctx.net.

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