trash

In this photo from 2015, Rodger Melton shows the kinds of trash that gets dumped in the desert near Paso De Oro Drive in Lake Havasu City. Melton said he’s found anything from shot up televisions to couches.

There has been a longstanding policy of allowing litterbugs to work in lieu of prosecution in Mohave County. But after a decision by the county’s governing board this week, that policy is going to change.

A $500 reward for the identification of those who violate Mohave County’s littering and illegal dumping ordinances may help law enforcement officers issue citations to those responsible. And although first-time offenders will have a chance to clean up their own mess, those efforts will now be in addition to prosecution. The Mohave County Board of Supervisors issued new changes to the county’s littering ordinance at its meeting on Monday in Kingman.

First-time offenders will now face a $1,000 minimum fine for their first littering or illegal dumping offense. That fine may be reduced to $500, if the violator agrees to clean his or her refuse within five days. The fine previously proposed to the board of supervisors this week was $500 for a first offense, with no option for self-cleaning. Second and third offenses would result in fines of $1,000 and $2,500, respectively.

Golden Valley resident Wayne Hollins has battled litter in the Mohave County desert since 2015, as a member of the Golden Valley Cactus Cleaners. Hollins praised the decision.

“Back in April of 2015, we had the first cleanup of the Golden Valley Cactus Cleaners,” Hollins said. “Since then, we’ve removed 1.2 million pounds of trash and tires from Golden Valley and Kingman.”

According to Hollins, that garbage has included 42 boats, four hot tubs and 18,752 tires, all abandoned in the desert.

“Increasing the fines is great,” Hollins said. “I don’t know if it’s enough … We might have caught up with dumping and cleaning the desert in Golden Valley, but cleaning alone doesn’t fix the problem. That only fixes what happens after they dump in the first place. If it doesn’t work, I hope you’ll come back and get more enforcement in the desert. But I hope this is more effective.”

Although the new changes to Mohave County’s ordinances may have challenged individual local prosecutors’ discretion in offering plea agreements in such cases, Supervisor Jean Bishop said the change was sorely needed.

“I understand this causes problems for prosecutors … but the Cactus Cleaners have been at dump sites since 2015,” Bishop said on Monday. “What we have now isn’t working. (The changes) are a step in the right direction.”

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