Hillsborough trash haulers are deputies' new set of eyes

07/10/12 Janelle Irwin
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The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office is partnering with their trash haulers to beef up community surveillance along their routes. Today, drivers in the county took a class to learn what red flags to look for and what to do if something seems out of place. Larry McKinnon, a spokesperson for the Sheriff’s office said it’s a little like neighborhood crime watch programs.

“When you have individuals that drive that same route every single day, they’re in that neighborhood every single day – it’s just like you may know your neighbor’s moving and expect a U-haul truck to be there or you may know he’s not moving and if that U-haul truck is there that might make you suspicious.”

Hillsborough is serviced by 150 employees of the company Waste Management. They serve more than 70,000 single family homes and 5,000 commercial clients. The drivers were trained during three sessions early this morning. Amy Boyson, a spokesperson for Waste Management said they have an opportunity to see what others might miss.

“Our drivers are in the residential areas when most homeowners are at work and then our drivers are in the commercial and industrial areas when those people are at home. So, we may see things that could happen when people may not be home or at their business.”

The initiative coincides with plans to amp up security efforts for the Republican National Convention next month. Many activists have complained to city officials that increasing police presence sends the wrong message to people who aren’t looking to cause trouble. But Hillsborough Sheriff’s spokesperson McKinnon said the effort doesn’t just focus on crime.

“It also works as they’re driving around they see traffic crashes. They can call in traffic crashes. They can call in street lights that might not be working properly.”

McKinnon added that aside from a minimal initial training cost, the program won’t dip into the agency’s budget.

“It’s mainly – it’s something that’s already in place. These drivers are already doing [this]. It’s just making them aware that they have a source to call when they see something that’s not in their ordinary daily travels.”

Drivers were also trained to look for things like piling up newspapers, broken windows or even cars that aren’t usually in the area. Waste Management’s spokesperson said they aren’t holding drivers accountable for participating, but they are required to stay out of harm’s way if a crime is occurring.

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