Thursday, August 26, 2010

City By-Law Officers Are A Facade

Since moving to the North End a few years ago I have been witness to countless people driving up to my dumpster and depositing their household and commercial waste.
Back in 2008 I took a picture on one person who said very arrogantly that he had every right to put his chain link fence in my dumpster. He even posed for a picture. I did not do anything with the picture at that time, and when I sent it in to the By-Law enforcement people I was told it was too late for them to act on the issue. I was told they could proceed with current issues up to about 6 months old.
So, I started taking pictures again. When I have been home, and when I have heard someone rummaging in the dumpster outside my back yard, I grab my camera and head outside. I ensure that my husband is with me. I don't trust people in the back lane to leave me unharmed if I am there alone. We rush out to the gate, open it, and step into the back lane. Then we ask the person what they are doing, ask them if they are a resident of this street, and advise them that it is illegal to be dumping the garbage in our dumpster. While doing this I try to get a picture of them and hope to include a license plate of the vehicle in the picture.
 Then I get a picture of the garbage that was left behind by the person.
Once I have this proof of illegal activity, I send the information into the 311 people via email (
The people at 311 give me a ticket number and let me know that they have forwarded the information on to the By-Law people who will take care of it for me.
That all sounds great. But I just got a call from the By-Law people. I have been informed that although I have a picture of the person, the license number of the truck, and a photograph of the items that were dumped in my dumpster, they cannot proceed with the issue. She said nothing will be done about it.
The reason nothing will be done about the issue is that the By-Law department has no authority to run a vehicle license plate. If there is no record of the vehicle license plate in their system at City By-Laws they cannot go any further. I was told even if they find the information on the vehicle license plate and go to the residence where it was insured, they have no authority to ask for identification of any person at that residence. It was something about privacy acts.
Who, in this city, created these rules? Why can an official in the By-Law enforcement office not have access to resources that can actually assist them in doing their jobs? Or why can they not turn the issue over to someone who does have access to the information needed to take care of these issues.
The By-Law enforcement officer suggested they could proceed if one was to ask for identification from the person committing the offence. I did say that I was already worried that we could be hurt just from going out and taking a picture of these people. I said I was not about to start asking for identification in a back alley. The officer completely understood my concern for my personal safety.
I do not, in any way, want you to think that this person from the By-Law department was rude or uncaring. Quite the contrary. The By-Law Officer shared my frustration in the situation and in the system that office is forced to work with. But here again, we are facing rules and procedures that make no sense at all.
I was told that this is not an isolated incident. I was told that this behaviour of illegal dumping is quite a problem. The By-Law officer didn't need to tell me that. I already knew.
I have heard from friends and neighbours that the issues in my back lane are they same as the issues in their back lanes. I have seen the garbage piled high in the dumpsters all through the North End.
So we have city workers employed in the By-Law department, being paid with our tax dollars. These By-Law officers are paid to enforce the city By-Laws. But they are not given the tools to actually enforce them.
The people who are driving into the North End, dumping their garbage in our yards and allleys, cannot be prosecuted for their illegal activities. The people who live in the North End and are witnessing these acts must put their lives in harms way to ask the criminals for identification.
Am I to report these issues to the police for investigation? Are they the only city workers who are able to do an investigation? Or should I call 911 when the act is occurring? Am I the irresponsible person here, not getting the proper information from the citizens of Winnipeg who are "cleaning up the city" by putting their garbage in my dumpster?
How much tax money does it take to stop the illegal dumping of garbage in the North End? Or is this just a facade, a system of bureaucratic steps designed to make the residents of the North End feel their concerns are being heard and their issues are being dealt with?

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