Gary’s Mayor Eddie Launches Task Force to Combat Illegal Dumping

In a significant development aimed at curbing the environmental and social menace of illegal dumping, Gary, Indiana, has taken a robust step forward. Mayor Eddie Melton, alongside Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) Commissioner Brian Rockensuess and Lake County officials, unveiled the city’s inaugural Illegal Dumping Task Force at a press conference on Tuesday 04 June. This new coalition is designed to tackle the chronic urban blight and improve the quality of life in Gary.

The Task Force represents a strategic collaboration across various levels of government, with the inclusion of state and county agencies to provide a multi-faceted approach to the issue. It includes representatives from the IDEM, the Lake County Prosecutor’s Office, and the Lake County Sheriff’s Office, all joining forces to offer regulatory guidance, enhanced surveillance, and strict enforcement protocols.

Mayor Melton emphasized the crucial role of community involvement in combating illegal dumping. “This issue cuts to the heart of public health and safety, and addressing it is beyond the capacity of city administration alone. It requires a united front,” he stated, encouraging residents to actively report illegal dump sites through the city’s 311 system. The Task Force also plans to engage local businesses and community members more directly in beautification efforts, adding signage in high-risk areas and launching an awareness campaign.

The formation of the Task Force was catalyzed by discussions earlier this year when IDEM officials, initially set to fine the city for its failure to manage dumping sites, opted for a collaborative approach after productive discussions with city officials. “Transitioning from a punitive to a cooperative stance with Gary has opened avenues to address the root causes of illegal dumping and secure the sites against future violations,” said Commissioner Rockensuess.

Highlighting the operational aspects of the collaboration, IDEM has allocated $508,678.08 in grants to secure two major dumping hotspots in the city at 1000 N. Clark Road and 890 Chase Street. These funds are being used to install advanced surveillance systems and perimeter fencing, integrating these sites into the Gary Police Department’s real-time crime monitoring network, significantly boosting local enforcement capabilities.

The urgency of the Task Force’s mission was underscored by a recent incident handled by Gary Police, where a dump truck was caught illegally disposing of trees and debris in Tolleston Park. The vigilant response from the police led to the truck being towed, and the operators fined, demonstrating the city’s heightened enforcement measures under the new initiative.

Deputy Chief Brian Evans of the Gary Police Department shared details of the enforcement strategy. “This recent incident at Tolleston Park is a stark reminder of the ongoing challenges we face. It’s not just about cleaning up; it’s about preventing these actions from the outset and holding offenders accountable,” he remarked.

Lake County Sheriff Oscar Martinez Jr. also expressed his department’s commitment to the cause, highlighting the deployment of advanced technology to monitor and track illegal dumping activities. “We are stepping up our efforts to ensure that our community does not become a dumping ground. This new task force will utilize all available technology and resources to keep our streets clean and safe,” Sheriff Martinez affirmed.

Concluding the conference, Mayor Melton thanked the community for their ongoing efforts and vigilance. “Your dedication to reporting and volunteering for clean-ups is essential to our success. This task force is just the beginning of our renewed commitment to making Gary a cleaner, safer place for all,” he declared, setting a determined tone for the city’s environmental enforcement strategy.–Press Release By Erika Blackwell, News Editor Ali