Local code enforcement officials are urging citizens to abide by the laws designed to prevent litter that causes danger to the public or risk being charged according to the laws on the books.

Millions of dollars are spent picking up litter each year, and items falling off trucks and cars cause needless deaths and injuries. Trash piles threaten people’s health as they become homes for rats and other pests.

Carl Fortson, Tifton-Tift County Code Enforcement director, said that local law enforcement officers now have laminated cards with the laws and penalties related to litter, signs, unsecured or uncovered trash loads and other environmental regulations printed on them. Some of the penalties can result in felony charges, stiff fines and jail time for convicted violators.

“This is a local effort to let the citizens know what the penalties can be,” Fortson said. “We are trying our best to get Tifton and Tift County cleaned up and we need the cooperation of the public.”

During Operation Clean Sweep held the last weekend in March, locals picked up four tons of trash from county streets and roads in a three-hour period.

Some of the most dangerous types of litter include biomedical waste, abandoned vehicles and vehicles loaded with litter or debris that isn’t secured or covered.

According to Fortson, littering of any kind is against the law. A piece of paper thrown carelessly out a car window can result in a fine of up to $1,000 and a possible jail term up to two months. Anyone who is charged with littering 10 pounds to 500 pounds of trash is subject to a fine up to $5,000 and a jail term up to 12 months upon conviction.

Anyone convicted of commercially dumping litter of any amount is guilty of a felony and might be fined up to $25,000 and sentenced to serve five years in prison or both. Posters, signs, advertisements, signals or other devices placed on public or private property without the owners’ permission is also a violation of Georgia law and subject to a $1,000 fine and up to 12 months in prison.

More information on the 2006 Comprehensive Litter Prevention and Abatement Act can be found online at www.litteritcostsyou.org.

Also, trash containers are required to be removed from the streets on the evening of pickup. Leaving trash containers on the street creates an eyesore in the community, Fortson said, and property owners or tenants may be cited for the offense.

Another community problems, according to local officials, is that some residential and commercial property owners don’t have their buildings’ address numbers posted.

“This requirement is for citizens’ safety in the event of an emergency,” Fortson said.

The abandoned, inoperable vehicles in Tifton and Tift County are also a violation of city and county ordinances, Fortson said.

“If the vehicles or trailers don’t have a valid tag, they are considered inoperable or abandoned,” Fortson said. “There are salvage yards in the area that will remove them free of charge.”

According to local officials who have recently commented on the need to clean up the community, volunteers for such programs as Keep Tift Beautiful and Adopt-A-Mile are in short supply. Anyone interested in volunteering their time to such efforts can call Bert Crowe at 229-391-3947.

To contact senior reporter Angie Thompson, call 382-4321.

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