Pinal County’s cities are surrounded with miles of open desert, although growth is changing that somewhat. The increased population is raising the likelihood that some residents will dump their trash out in those beautiful desert areas, although this is by no means a new problem. And being located between two metropolitan areas doesn’t help either. The crime traditionally is tough to stop, although people do get arrested for it when caught.
The county now has an opportunity to try a new program that would help in multiple ways, by incentivizing reports of violations and hitting offenders where it would do some good. That is, they would be sentenced to clean up trash and probably learn something in the process.
County Attorney Kent Volkmer presented the idea to the Board of Supervisors last week, asking for a one-year pilot program. Those charged with criminal littering would have to spend 20 hours in desert cleanup but then could have the charge dismissed and not damage their ability to earn a living. They would pay a fine that would replenish the fund for rewarding crime tips with up to $500.
Volkmer pointed out that traditional prosecution is not as effective, saying “we won’t prosecute our way out of this problem.” He also said the county previously had an enforcement plan that was canceled during the Great Recession. Now, the efforts in place have not been very effective.
He also asked for the traditional efforts of interagency cooperation with scheduled desert cleanup days. There is nothing wrong with that.
The idea met with approval by a Gold Canyon organization’s representative in attendance, who said that it fits with the goals of such groups. And Supervisor Jeff Serdy, R-Apache Junction, summed up the situation well by saying, “What do we have to lose? Let’s try it, be innovative.”
Volkmer’s plan is indeed a good one, and Pinal County should adopt it, try it and add changes if necessary. Our Pinal scenery will be better for it.
— Donovan Kramer Jr.