Littering and graffiti: police say don’t do the crime, if you can’t pay the fine or do the time
Special to the Sierra Sun
Those interested in reporting graffiti, littering or persons leaving garbage next to a dumpster or garbage can, call the agency residing over that jurisdiction. Below is a short list of agencies.
In North Lake Tahoe/Truckee California:
Placer County: call 530-886-5375 if you see illegal dumping I progress. If you see an illegal dump site you can submit an online report at: https://www.placer.ca.gov/2298/Online-Crime-Reporting
Kings Beach State Recreation Area (530) 523-3203
Donner Memorial State Park (530) 523-3203
California Highway Patrol: 1-800-835-5247, or the local Truckee office (530) 563-9200
In North Lake Tahoe Nevada:
Washoe County: call 775-785-WCSO if you see illegal dumping in progress. If you see an illegal dumpsite use the app iPhone https://apps.apple.com/us/developer/washoe-county-sheriffs-office/id610715778 Google Play https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=us.washoe.wcso&hl=en_US
Sand Harbor State Park (775) 831-0494
Spooner State Park (775) 749-5980
Carson Ranger District (775) 882-2766
Nevada Highway Patrol: (775) 687-5300
Anyone can report littering, by writing down a license plate or address and pursue making the equivalent to a citizen’s arrest.
The caveat is that person would need to call one of the multiple agencies responsible for upholding the law, sign the citation and show up in court, if necessary.
On Sept. 7 an off-duty Nevada Highway Patrol sergeant used this process for reporting a litter crime.
“An off-duty NHP sergeant who observed the vehicle in front of him throw a large aluminum can out of the window (made the report),” Trooper Hannah DeGoey said. “The sergeant was able to keep a visual on the vehicle until it could be stopped by the closest unit, which was a Nevada State Parks Ranger.”
Littering is a misdemeanor in the state of Nevada and any law enforcement officer can issue a littering citation. Including court fees in Washoe County, first-time offenses add up to approximately $625. The minimum fine for littering is $500 and for first offenders it could cost up to $1,000 and include six months in jail.
“There was another littering citation that occurred on Sunday, September 6,” DeGoey added, “when a trooper witnessed a man throw his Gatorade bottle down the mountainside.”
In addition to citations, both offenses included a lecture from the arresting officer, and for Sept. 6 incident the man also received citations for driving without a license, insurance and registration.
In Nevada, highway patrol officers, state parks rangers, the county sheriff, U.S. Forest Service rangers, game wardens or other person specifically designated by the local government can write citations for littering.
California works similarly. California Highway Patrol officers can write citations and make arrests in any jurisdiction in the state. County sheriffs can do the same anywhere within the county jurisdiction, state parks rangers on state park land, U.S. Forest Service on forest service land, and Truckee police anywhere within the town limits.
The biggest differences between California and Nevada state laws is that littering isn’t a misdemeanor in California, and the minimum fines are significantly less. Each jurisdiction, though, can create its own litter laws.
In Placer County, the parks system upped the ante, making littering a misdemeanor and including fines of up to $1,000 and possible jail time of up to six months, even for the first offense. The more popular county parks include Speedboat Beach, North Tahoe Beach and Commons Beach.
In both states many of the jurisdiction’s litter laws include community service, mandating the offender pick up litter for several hours.
According to California penal code 374.4, “litter“ is defined as the discarding, dropping, or scattering of small quantities of waste matter ordinarily carried on or about the person, including, but not limited to, beverage containers and closures, packaging, wrappers, wastepaper, newspapers, and magazines, in a place other than a place or container for the proper disposal thereof, and including waste matter that escapes or is allowed to escape from a container, receptacle, or package.
“A person, firm, or corporation convicted of a violation of this section shall be punished by a mandatory fine of not less than ($250) nor more than ($1,000) upon a first conviction, by a mandatory fine of not less than ($500) nor more than ($1,500) upon a second conviction, and by a mandatory fine of not less than ($750) nor more than ($3,000) upon a third or subsequent conviction.”
‘ACTIVE CASES GOING’
What is also a misdemeanor is vandalism and graffiti fall under this code. Sgt. Mike Powers with the Placer County Sheriff’s Office confirmed that the fine, “depending on the amount of damage, it can be up to $10,000” and “up to one year in jail time or if you engage in significant vandalism that could be more (up to $50,000), but that usually is very rare that does qualify for basic graffiti. Now, if they graffiti somebody with a nice brand new Beemer then we have an issue.
“We have active cases going, we had a rash of graffiti in Kings Beach last week, so far we believe it’s likely from the same suspect or group of; we’re actively pursuing some leads, but we don’t have any case specific at this point.”
Placer County officials have announced they want to implement stronger garbage regulations and the sheriff’s office would support that.
“We see all the time both locals and vacationers that come up here and they don’t know how to use a bear box and it will overflow, or they set their garbage next to an overflowing dumpster somewhere,” said Powers. “We would certainly encourage it, if vacation rentals required trash pickup. That would be a great idea.”
With the rafters and crowds on the Truckee River, trash has been a long standing issue.
According to Powers, the county along with the Tahoe City PUD placed signage along the Truckee River and the sheriff began regular patrols significantly reducing the litter between the Fanny Bridge and the River Ranch.
Michelle Gartner is a freelance writer who lives in Gardnerville, Nevada.
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Unless a series of storms blankets the Sierra Nevada with snow, California and Nevada are facing critically dry years.