DANVILLE, W.Va. — A Boone County man will not soon forget the consequences of illegal dumping. Natural Resources Police this week cited Danny Lee Smith, 58, of Danville with littering and contributing to an open dump.
The citations were issued after Smith was observed on one of the Division of Natural Resources “Litter Cams” that was placed in an area which had become a problem dump site.
“That area is a bad area. We’ve had numerous complaints over the years,” said NRP Officer Dakoda Chattin. “Even when we don’t get complaints, it’s an area I drive through every few weeks and still find new trash being thrown out.”
The persistent problem at the dump site off U.S. Route 119 in Boone County in an area known to locals as “Mud Mountain” prompted Chattin to seek permission from superiors to use “litter cameras.” The devices operate the same way trail cameras capture pictures of deer, bear, and other wildlife sought by hunters with motion activation. Unlike game cameras, Chattin said there needs to be a lot more stealth involved.
“If you put them too low to the ground, they’re more likely to be torn up or stolen,” he explained. “You have to hide them or put them at a higher elevation so if they do see them, they’re not likely to mess with them. The placement is what makes it tough.”
However, this time, it worked. Chattin had one camera as his main camera and a second one in another location as the backup. The video captured a man unloading bags of trash and what appeared to be a rocking chair from the bed of a pickup truck and piling it up.
The video was posted to the agency’s Facebook page and almost immediately, Chattin was hot on the trail.
“I got a few different names, but it wasn’t too hard after you figured out the details and description of the subject,” Chattin said. “Actually the guy ended up admitting to it.”
Smith can appear in Boone County Magistrate Court to fight the charges.
“He’s charged with contributing to an open dump and littering between 100 and 500 pounds” Chapman explained. “The penalty changes on the poundage, which is why there is is a specific poundage.”
It’s not uncommon to see signs for litter cams at illegal dump sites on West Virginia’s back roads announcing the presence of a device. Sometimes the signs are decoys, said Chattin, and sometimes they aren’t.
“There’s not always a sign and sometimes there might be a sign and there won’t even be a camera, depending on how we work it,” he explained. “Just because you see one camera doesn’t mean there aren’t multiple cameras around.”
The camera which captured the offending video in this case and led to citations also caught video of another activity which pleased Chattin.
“Before I could even get out there, most of the trash had actually been picked up. I have video of people just stopping and picking it up,” he said. “I will say that about the citizens of Boone County, they care and they’re behind us.”