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Camden, NJ deters illegal dumping, fulfilling promise to clean up community

The City of Camden

Camden, NJ

Camden, NJ cleans up approximately 43,000 tons of illegally dumped trash every year, leading the community to feel unclean and unsafe. By using surveillance equipment to deter dumping, the city fulfilled its promise to clean up the community, saving millions in taxpayer money and building trust among residents.

Topics Covered

Ecosystem Degradation
Waste Management
Law Enforcement and Emergency Response
Air Quality, Health, Noise

Cost

Initial: Zero Upfront Cost

Funding

General Fund/Existing Public Funds

Project Status

Operational since 2021

Gov Champion

Public Works

Problem Addressed

Camden needed to find a way to deter illegal dumping at sites around the city and minimize the cost spent by the city to clean it up.

In an average year, the city of Camden, NJ cleans up about 43,000 tons of trash dumped illegally across the municipality, including construction rubble, hot water tanks, and hazardous waste. Not only does the deluge of debris detract from the value and pride of the city, but it’s also a health and safety hazard. And it’s expensive— Camden spends about $4.5 million a year cleaning up illegal dumping, not including the cost of salaries, vehicles, and other equipment that supports clean-up efforts.

“We’ll see everything from home renovation debris to discarded furniture to 55-gallon drums of hazardous chemicals,” said Keith Walker, director of the city’s Department of Public Works. “It’s a visible eyesore, but it also attracts unwanted wildlife, like raccoons, possums, and rats, and encourages illicit behavior.”

In the past year, the issue has drawn increased attention from local activists and residents, as well as state law enforcement and environmental agencies. Within the city of Camden, officials from the mayor’s office, public works, and other departments are equally committed to solving the long-standing problem. The city launched Camden Strong, an initiative to address illegal dumping, community health, unsafe structure, public safety, and other concerns impacting the Camden community.

With the new Camden Strong initiative promising to address illegal dumping and clean up the city, Camden needed to find a way to deter illegal dumping at sites around the city, and minimize the cost spent cleaning it up.

Solutions Used

Camden addressed the problem of illegal dumping by using video surveillance systems to monitor dumping hotspots and deter intrusion.

Keith Walker, director of the city’s Department of Public Works, said he and his team were exploring different mechanisms for preventing illegal dumping to support the Camden Strong initiative when they received a recommendation to use a video surveillance system.

In just a few days, the city was using cameras to monitor two illegal dumping hotspots estimated to be responsible for 70-100 tons of illegal dumping each year. Setup of the system for the city was easy, with the mobile unit-mounted cameras set up in 30 minutes with no wires, internet, or electricity needed. Camden was focused on deterring potential dumpers so the cameras were equipped with floodlights, a two-way speaker, and infrared license plate readers. Training employees on the system was easy, with remote feeds from the cameras viewable from a smartphone and alerts sent in the event of an intrusion or video capture of a license plate.

In the four months the cameras have been monitoring the two sites, neither has had any illegal dumping violations. The reduction in trash dumping has been so significant that grass is beginning to grow for the first time in decades. With these results, the city can confidently say that the Camden Strong initiative has been effective in cleaning up the city and addressing the illegal dumping that concerned the community.

“The deterrent factor has been huge,” Walker said. “It’s 100% working.”

Outcomes

1

The two dumping hotspots have had no illegal dumping violations in the four months the new deterrent program has been in place

2

The city government fulfilled its promise under Camden Strong to address illegal dumping, thereby building trust in the community

3

Camden residents benefit from a cleaner and safer community

4

Because the surveillance units are powered by solar power, the city can easily move them to other hotspots sites to deter illegal dumping activity

Something Unique

Because the surveillance units are multi-use, the community can easily adapt them to serve a variety of purposes

Who Should Consider

Towns/Cities whose feeling of safety has been diminished by illegal activities that cannot be deterred through typical law enforcement activities

Government Project Team

  • Keith Walker, Director of Public Works

Last Updated

May 9th, 2022

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