Law officers plan push for swatting litter bugs

By Danza Johnson/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Police will try to get a handle on littering before it becomes a big problem.
In warm weather, more people are out and about, and more trash gets thrown on roadsides and in neighborhoods, according to Tupelo Police Code Enforcer Lt. Jessie King.
“Now that people are out more, litter is piling up,” said King. “People just throw stuff out of their vehicles and don’t think about it. It’s making the city look bad. We want to keep the city clean, so we are very serious about stopping people from littering.”
King said he sees a lot of trash strewn throughout neighborhoods. An even bigger mess occurs, he said, when a food bag is thrown out and dogs rip it apart.
Aside from making the city look unattractive, littering also can be dangerous for motorists.
“It’s littering even when you throw a cigarette butt from a moving vehicle, but it’s also dangerous,” said Maj. Jackie Clayton. “That butt can fly into someone’s window and cause an accident. If you throw out a cup while driving down the road, someone could swerve to miss it and get in a serious accident. When you throw things out of a moving vehicle, you are jeopardizing someone else’s safety.”
Clayton said that if a person’s littering causes an accident, that person could be held liable for it.
If trash flies out of a vehicle, whether the driver knows it or not, that person is still responsible for it and could be fined for littering.
King said people with open-bed trucks are required to make sure the bed is covered if they are hauling something.
A littering fine is $176 in Tupelo.
In Lee County the fines start at $500 for littering, but Sheriff Jim Johnson said that’s not all the offender will have to give up.
“If we catch you littering you will be on the side of the road picking up trash,” said Johnson.
Sherri Cochran is environmental planner and executive director of Keep Tupelo Beautiful. She said littering is a quality-of-life issue that could give newcomers a bad impression of Tupelo if it gets out of hand.
“When people come into your town and see trash everywhere they think we don’t care, so they throw trash out too,” said Cochran.”We have to set the example and take it upon ourselves to make sure Tupelo is clean. If everyone picks up one piece a paper a day, just one, we’d have 35,000 pieces of trash picked up every day. That’s making a difference.”