WJTV News Channel 12 - Cleaning up the litter problem: Roanoke County passes new litter

Cleaning up the litter problem: Roanoke County passes new littering ordinance

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Leaders in Roanoke County say they want to clean up a growing littering problem.  This week, they passed a new ordinance that they believe will help make that happen.

The ordinance makes littering a civil offense rather than a criminal offense -- meaning anyone who is caught littering will appear before a civil judge, who can choose to impose a fine or community service picking up litter.

It also provides a more specific definition of littering to include discarding cigarette butts.

County Attorney Paul Mahoney says because criminal courtrooms are dealing with more serious crimes like theft, rape, and assault, littering complaints aren't always taken very seriously -- and the county hopes this shift in policy will help improve enforcement efforts.

"It's not so much we're trying to get money and make a profit out of this," said Mahoney.  "It's trying to get compliance.  But I think that for some people, the only way you get their attention is if you hit them in the pocketbook."

The Board of Supervisors approved the measure during their meeting Tuesday night.  County leaders say it's just one piece of a new anti-littering campaign they're beginning to roll out.

For more serious cases of littering, offenders can still be hit with criminal charges.  Mahoney says it will be up to police to determine what kind of offense has been committed.


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