Mayor Eddie Melton Announces Creation of Illegal Dumping Task Force in Gary

GARY, IND. Yesterday, in a historic press conference, Mayor Eddie Melton, IDEM Commissioner Brian Rockensuess, and Lake County Officials announced the creation of Gary’s first Illegal Dumping Task Force, a group that will combat the chronic issues of illegal dumping and blight in the city. The key objectives of this group are to enhance public health & safety, promote environmental justice, support economic development, ensure fiscal responsibility, and engage residents in city improvement efforts.

This coordinated effort marks a significant step towards a cleaner and more beautiful Gary. The task force will coordinate efforts across various city departments to not only eliminate illegal dumping but also to reclaim and redevelop affected sites.

The Task Force will also include representatives from key state and county partners, such as Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) and the Lake County Prosecutor’s Office, who will play crucial roles in regulatory guidance and legal enforcement, as well as the Lake County Sheriff’s Office, who will assist with surveillance and enforcement efforts.

Mayor Melton thanked city employees from Code Enforcement, General Services, Fire and Police Departments who had been working hard to address the issue, stating, “We cannot do this alone. The administration cannot do this alone. It’s going to take the community as a whole. It is going to take the stakeholders that we have here today and community partnerships. We want to encourage the public: when you see something, please say something. Use our 311 system to report any illegal dump sites that you see.”

Community engagement will be at heart of this initiative. One of the deliverables of the task force will be to involve residents and businesses in the city’s improvement efforts. This will include the installation of signage in high-risk areas and the launch of an awareness campaign.

The idea for the task force came about earlier this year, when city officials from the Melton Administration were engaged in talks with IDEM officials who were investigating illegal dumping sites in Gary. Initially, IDEM was prepared to cite and fine the city for not addressing illegal dumping, but after reviewing their findings and seeing the extent of illegal activity, they decided to partner with the city instead.

IDEM Commissioner Brian Rockensuess said, “For the last several months my team and I have been working on strengthening our relationship with Gary and finding a way to work together on collaborative approaches to preventing open dumping issues, particularly on city owned properties. We’ve been meeting regularly with the Mayor’s team and brainstorming creative ways that we can leverage state and federal resources to help tackle this systemic issue. One of these ideas was creating a task force bringing together all of the agencies and offices that have a stake in preventing illegal dumping and holding perpetrators accountable. We know that just cleaning up the blighted site isn’t enough. We also need to secure the site to prevent future dumping, enforce the laws that hold dumpers accountable and develop plans to bring these sites back into productive use so they can benefit the entire community.”

Ultimately, IDEM decided to help the City of Gary by providing $508,678.08 in grant funding to secure and monitor two of the most important illegal dumping sites: 1000 N. Clark Road and 890 Chase Street. This grant funding will allow city officials to enhance security by installing high-resolution surveillance cameras and perimeter fencing at both locations. The City of Gary will also integrate these camera systems with the Gary Police Department’s real-time crime monitoring network. Developing the plan to address these two long-standing illegal dumping sites helped Mayor Melton and his administration recognize that it was important to attack these challenges as a team.

During numerous meetings with Gary Police, Code Enforcement and residents, city officials also noted numerous dumping incidents were caused by individuals and contractors who were not residents of Gary, but who decided to dump in the city. The sheer number of dump sites within the City of Gary and volume of rubbish clearly showed that the issue was systemic and that many individuals across Lake County were responsible. They decided that an Illegal Dumping Task Force was needed to ensure that they could efficiently cite and prosecute the perpetrators.

Deputy Chief Brian Evans of the Gary Police Department described in detail one of the many incidents that the City of Gary has recently investigated. On May 7, 2024, Gary Police Dispatch received a call from a concerned and watchful citizen regarding a suspicious dump truck at Tolleston Park. Responding officers swiftly located the suspects using a roll-off dump truck to illegally dump trees and debris within the park. The individuals were instructed to reload all the debris back onto the truck. Subsequently, the truck was towed, and a fine was issued. Additional citations and charges are pending in Gary Court under case #24G026186.

Deputy Evans shared, “The individuals involved in this incident are from Hebron, IN. This case is one of many where the illegal dumpers are not residents of the city. And sometimes illegal dumping is performed by large companies that are paid to dispose of debris while doing work, but instead of doing the proper disposal, they dump it in the City of Gary. This pattern underscores the importance of vigilant community involvement to combat this issue.”

Lake County Sheriff Oscar Martinez Jr. was also present at the press conference emphasizing his office’s commitment to the Task Force and the support and tools that he would bring to the effort.

“The Lake County Sheriff’s department is taking a proactive measure to address legal dumping in the City of Gary Indiana. Using resources and technology to hold individuals accountable is crucial for maintaining the cleanliness and safety of this community. Illegal dumping creates a public health hazard and an environmental hazard, and it costs money to clean up. We’re going to deploy our cameras that will identify vehicles that went through these areas that are a problem with illegal dumping. We will also be installing cameras that will be monitored periodically by our Real Time Operational Center to keep an eye on those individuals entering and leaving that area for potentially doing illegal dumping. It's very important to take this very seriously. We’re saying enough is enough and we’re not going to tolerate it,” stated Sheriff Martinez.

The Melton Administration’s goal is to leverage the Illegal Dumping Task Force to create a culture of shared responsibility for building a cleaner, safer, and more beautiful city. This foundational step is critical for future economic growth and development of Gary.

Mayor Melton closed the press conference by saying, “To the citizens that are constantly helping out, we thank you. Every single weekend we have individuals volunteering to help out and clean up the city. When we drive though the city and we catch individuals dumping, it’s heartbreaking to see that folks have this belief that it’s ok to dump in Gary, but it’s not. I think everyone can see that we’re not playing. We will find you, and you will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. This is something that we’re taking very seriously.”

Media Contact:

Erika Blackwell

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