Aggressive enforcement of laws might stop most littering

Last week some local officials gathered to discuss an issue that desperately needs to be addressed, yet is one that should never have to be addressed.

Roadside littering.

Surry County Board of Commissioners Vice Chair Eddie Harris has taken this on as his cause, and he led the way in gathering folks from various local agencies to discuss the issue and how the county can best tackle the problem.

And the problem is significant. Anyone who drives through Surry County can see it — garbage along the roadside. Sometimes it’s from someone who apparently finished their fast-food greasy burger special and now can’t be bothered to put the wrappers and bags in a garbage bag, instead dumping them out the window.

Other times it’s those irresponsible folks who haul around trash and junk in the back of their trucks, too lazy to even tie-down a cover over the garbage.

Every once in a while it seems to be no-account people who can’t be bothered to take their trash to the landfill, instead dumping wholes bags full of the stuff along isolated roads.

Despite the fact that some believe this isn’t a major issue, this does reflected poorly on Surry County and its people. Here at The Mount Airy News, we received an email last week from someone who lives in Greensboro, wanting to know why Surry County’s portion of U.S. 52 has so much more trash along the side than the rest of the highway. And that’s not the first time we’ve had emails, letters, or calls along these lines.

Harris, along with others joining him in the effort, are putting together a plan they hope will accomplish several things:

1) Educate the public regarding why they shouldn’t litter and alternatives to the practice;

2) Address the garbage that is on the highways through consistent clean-up efforts;

3) More aggressive enforcement of existing laws against littering and perhaps find additional rules to enact further penalizing offenders.

We applaud those goals, and Harris’ efforts at leading the way. While we do believe education should be part of the effort, we also find it ludicrous that it has to be part of the program.

Every single person driving a vehicle already knows it’s wrong to throw garage along the side of the highway. We’d go so far as to say every single person older than age 5 or 6 even riding in a vehicle already knows this. The folks engaging in the practice know it’s wrong and they simply don’t care.

One particular part of the program we’d like to see get attention is enforcement. Some communities get reputations as speed traps, where the local police will go out of their way to slap a speeding ticket on you.

Maybe Surry County could be known as a litter trap, with aggressive enforcement of anti-littering laws. We suspect if word gets out that you’re going to get hit with a fine to the tune of a couple of hundred dollars, plus court costs, if you throw your garbage along Surry County roadways, most folks will decide the risks just aren’t worth it.

Again, we support the entirety of Harris’ effort, including educating the public about the wrongness of littering and other positive enforcement steps, but in this case we suspect a little negative reinforcement will go a long way toward putting an end to this widespread, nasty habit practice.

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