Officials hope to curb littering problem in Frederick watershed with surveillance cameras

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FREDERICK, Md. — Officials in Frederick are hoping to catch anyone who litters in the city’s watershed with the help of some new cameras.

City officials said dumping in the area has become a major issue and the new initiative is aimed at making people think twice before discarding trash.

“Four mattresses, more than 30 tires, more than 20 gallons of used motor oil, about seven tons of bulk trash and about six trailers of yard debris,” Jenny Willoughby, the city’s sustainability manager, said that’s what her and 60 other volunteers cleaned up this past Spring.

Willoughby said littering has become a big problem and they’re hoping the surveillance cameras will be able to change that.

“We hope that we can catch some people dumping the trash, mud bogging and dumping some yard waste so that we can minimize the issue. We really don’t want people dumping up here,” Willoughby said.

The city has purchased approximately five cameras that read license plates and display faces. They are preparing to install them in hidden locations throughout the watershed. Each camera costs around $700, and city officials believe they’re worth the price for what they’re protecting.

“It is our water supply. It is 11 to 14 percent of the city’s water supply, so it is very important that we keep this area clean. We also want to keep it safe for users,” Willoughby said.

She also hopes the cameras provide the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office with evidence so they can decide what to do with repeat offenders. Amanda Hatcher, spokesperson for the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office, said detectives would use the cameras as another investigative tool for crimes committed in the area. The city has no enforcement capabilities and Willoughby said the 7,500 acres of watershed is too much for anyone to constantly patrol.

“The cameras just give us that little bit of focus in some areas. They’ll be moving around, they’re not going to be in one area for very long. And it’s all in the hopes that eventually we won’t need them at all,” Willoughby added. 

The city plans to turn over any footage to the sheriff’s office who will then determine enforcement actions and penalties.

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