LaGrange talks ticketing litter-bugs

Published 7:09 pm Wednesday, August 14, 2019

The City of LaGrange has spent thousands of dollars and probably as many man hours attempting to remove litter from city streets, but Tuesday discussion turned to issuing citations for littering.

The discussion was part of a a request from the Calumet Park community to add anti-littering signs in the neighborhood.

“They want to encourage people not to litter in their community, which the city has been working diligently on for about a year and a half,” City Manager Meg Kelsey said. “They would like for us to put some ‘please don’t litter’ signs around the community to try to encourage people. We did put out trash cans throughout the community to try to encourage people not to just throw it out their window.”

However, Council Member Mark Mitchell questioned whether signs and cleanups were enough.

“I think this comes down to the city manager calling the police chief to say we are going to be looking at what the numbers are on littering tickets this next report because a lot of that has to do with him pushing that down to officers,” Mitchell said. “When you are not busy, you need to be pushing enforcement of littering. I know they stay busy, and that is not the top priority on most days, but I think it has to come down to that it is a big issue with our city.”

The City of LaGrange has hosted monthly litter cleanups since April 2018, and the city has closed all non-essential offices for a half day on two occasions so that city employees could take part in major community-wide litter pickups. Additionally, the city has created promotional material discouraging littering and encouraging citizens to “leave LaGrange better than we found it,” but enforcement of littering violations has not increased significantly during that time.

“I think to do that is for the city manager to convey to Chief Dekmar that the council is concerned about litter. We have been,” Mayor Jim Thornton said. “We’ve been spending a lot of time and a lot of money on this litter campaign, and we would like for him to consider that in terms of the policy direction he gives to the force.”

However, Thornton said that Dekmar had previously expressed concern that strong enforcement of minor infractions like littering could make citizens less willing to cooperate with police during major investigations.

“His concern is creating a hostile environment between the police and citizens where they are getting pulled over for pieces of trash blowing out of the bed of their truck — or something like that — and getting a ticket and then going to municipal court,” Thornton said. “His concern is then when they are the witness to a more serious crime, they are going to have a bad feeling toward the police.”

Mitchell said that he plans to ask about the number of litter citations issued at the next budget meeting.

The LaGrange City Council will meet again on Aug. 27 at 5:30 p.m. at 208 Ridley Ave.