Corbett, Gresham dumping cases solved
It takes vigilance, a bit of luck and a lot of patience for law enforcement to catch a suspect.
Those three things paid off for the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office in two unrelated cases of illegal dumping in Corbett and Gresham, solved within just two days of each other on Sunday and Monday, Dec. 11-12.
Both cases had been ongoing for three years. The Multnomah County Sheriff's Department worked with the Multnomah County Health Department's Nuisance Control, which takes the lead in cleaning up dumping sites in unincorporated parts of the county, to catch the suspects in both cases.
Human waste dumped on Corbett roads
In Corbett, residents had to deal with a three-year case of illegal dumpings - quite literally, in this case.
Suspects had been tossing McDonald's plastic cups filled with human feces and toilet paper along the roadsides throughout the Corbett and Springdale area.
Multnomah County Sheriff's Deputy 'Rocky' Joe Graziano estimated that hundreds and hundreds of feces-filled cups had been dumped along various roads; the most common spots were along Lucas, Chamberlain and Mershon roads and on parts of the Historic Columbia River Highway, he said.
'Sometimes cars would run over them and make a big mess,' Graziano said.
On Monday, Dec. 12, the suspect dumped about 12 waste-filled plastic cups over a 50-foot stretch of Lucas Road, Graziano said.
In an effort to catch the suspects, Graziano set up an email list for residents to report the dumpings, which proved to be useful in tracking each incident.
Last week, a resident was able to provide evidence from one dumpsite by her property that helped lead police to the suspects.
The suspects turned out to be an elderly couple, age 69 and 66, who had moved to Corbett around the same time that the illegal dumpings started being reported, Graziano said.
The woman, who has medical and mental health issues, said she had trouble accessing the toilet on the second floor of their home, Graziano said. Therefore, the couple would dispose of the woman's waste from their car.
'I guess they thought it was real convenient, and they wouldn't get caught,' Graziano said.
Once police confronted the couple, however, the couple expressed much remorse about what they had done, Graziano said.
The woman was cited for 12 counts of offensive littering, although she could have easily been cited for hundreds of counts. The minimum fine is $100.
'Because of their honesty and cooperation, they were fined less than the maximum (of $999 per incident),' Graziano said, adding that the woman is unable to perform community service because of her health issues.
Since the couple is low income, they have worked out a payment plan for the fines, Graziano said.
The husband cleaned up the waste along Lucas Road on Monday evening. The couple has also written an apology letter, which will be sent out to residents in the area, Graziano said.
Project Respond, a mobile mental health response team, provided assistance to the couple, Graziano said. The couple was also referred to the county's aging and disability services for additional help, he said.
Gresham serial dumper
Neighbors in the 8000 block of Southeast 282nd Avenue in Gresham reported that someone had consistently been dumping bags of garbage in the neighborhood for about three years.
Dave Thomson, code enforcement officer with the Multnomah County Health Department, said the person would dump one to three sacks of garbage once a week or sometimes twice a week. The garbage usually contained food and hygiene products but never any traceable evidence, Thomson said.
'We rarely catch up to dumpers, but this guy was a serial dumper, and we were getting tired of it,' Thomson said.
Since the garbage bags were usually left sitting upright on driveways, Thomson thought the suspect was getting out of his or her car to drop them off.
Thomson said he was staking out the neighborhood early Sunday morning, Dec. 4, when the suspect drove by in a car, tossing the garbage bags out through the passenger window.
Thomson said he was then able to narrow down the time and day that the suspect would most likely toss out his or her garbage.
With the assistance of a sheriff's deputy, Thomson again staked out the neighborhood Sunday morning, Dec. 11, and again saw the dumper toss out his garbage from his passenger-side window as he drove by. This time, Thomson and the deputy caught up with the driver.
Thomson said the suspect, a Gresham resident on his early morning commute to work, initially denied being responsible.
'If I hadn't seen him do it in front of me, this could have been more difficult to prove,' Thomson said.
However, after the man learned what the maximum fine for dumping was - $999 per incident - and how he might be able to reduce the fines by being more cooperative, he then took responsibility, Thomson said.
Thomson said a civil penalty for $300 was negotiated Tuesday, Dec. 13, with the man, who was very remorseful and apologetic. In addition to the fine, he is writing a letter of apology to the neighbors.
If you see it, report it
Multnomah County Health Department's Vector and Nuisance Control encourages people who see an illegal dumping in progress to call 9-1-1 and report it immediately. Be prepared to give a location, a license plate number, a description of the dumpers and any other relevant information.
If the dumping is not in progress, call the department at 503-988-3464 and report the location. Do not disturb the material, as it might be hazardous and you might disturb crucial evidence.
Each East County city also has a phone number for nuisance reports; check with your respective city for information.