One resident of Ceres learned the hard way Friday that the city means business when it comes to cracking down on illegal dumping.
A city employee rolled down El Camino Avenue south of the Pine Street overpass and saw Jimmy Belcher of Ceres pulling discarded items from the backyard of a Sixth Street property onto the public right-of-way and alerted Ceres Police and code enforcement. Belcher’s misdemeanor citation comes with a $100 fine.
“He said he did not live there and was hired to clean out the property,” said Ceres Code Enforcement Officer Jeffrey Hopkins. “We have a lot of illegal dumps at that location and he told me, ‘Well I’m not the only one dumping here.’”
The city is ramping up efforts to crack down on illegal dumping which is plaguing Ceres and contributing to overall blight. Recently the Ceres City Council voted to hire another full-time code enforcement officer and two part-time employees. The additional staff is funded for two years with ARPA funds, the federal COVID relief money.
“Help is on its way,” said Hopkins, who is constantly checking out hot spots where chronic illegal dumping is a problem “hoping to catch someone.” Those areas include Richland Avenue near River Road and N. Central Avenue near River Road. He suspects much of the dumping occurs in the cover of darkness.
The city plans to buy and install more surveillance cameras at those locations to pick up images and license plates so police can track the culprits down.
The public can help combat the problem by reporting when they see someone in the act of discarding furniture and other items on streets or on the side of the road. Hopkins said if an illegal dump is in progress or if an illegal dump has already occurred, citizens may call dispatch at (209) 538-5712 to report it. Ceres dispatchers will ask the location and for any information on the violator. The illegal dump will be documented and cleaned up as soon as possible.
Hopkins rejects the idea that outsiders are causing the problem in Ceres.
"I just think it is laziness. When they move out they drag their stuff out to the street and think ‘It’s someone else’s problem ..."Code Enforcement Officer Jeffrey Hopkins
“A lot of dumping is coming from apartment dwellers. I just think it is laziness. When they move out they drag their stuff out to the street and think ‘It’s someone else’s problem and I’m moving.’”
Hopkins also believes that many residents – particularly those new to Ceres – don’t know that they can take advantage of two bulky item pick-ups per year. Those living in single-family homes who have garbage services in Ceres may schedule two free pick-ups per calendar year of such materials before placing garbage curbside by calling Bertolotti waste services at (209) 537-1500.
Another reoccurring problem facing city code enforcement efforts are residents who continue to place yard waste in the street.
“I’m still running into people who don’t know that the leaf and limb program has ended,” said Hopkins.
The city’s leaf and limb pick-up program only runs from Oct. 1 to Jan. 9.
Grass clippings and yard waste must now be placed in the green waste container. Residents who have large tree trimmings may haul them to the Bertolloti Disposal at 231 Flamingo Drive in Modesto.