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Jail term for littering is commended
Sunday, April 8, 2012
By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin Staff Writer
Some area officials are applauding a judge’s decision Thursday to sentence a man to eight months in jail for littering in Henry County.
“That’s what’s got to be done to get the word out. With this litter problem (in the community), that’s got to be done,” said R. Reid Young III, a Martinsville lawyer who has been spearheading an anti-littering and anti-dumping campaign. “I hope it’s just the beginning. I hope we can get a bunch of people (violators).”
That not only would humiliate violators, but it would humiliate them for doing “something they know they shouldn’t do. Any civilized person knows you shouldn’t” litter or dump, Young added.
Ridgeway District Supervisor H.G. Vaughn also praised the court decision. He said he feels the sentence “helps make the statement about how unacceptable littering is.”
“I hope the court will back us up and be firm when someone is convicted, especially when someone is given an opportunity to clean it up (the trash) and refuses. In those cases the court should be firm,” Vaughn said.
Young said he happened to be in Henry County General District Court on Thursday when Joseph A. Eggleston was tried. Young said Judge R. Morgan Armstrong gave Eggleston a month in jail for every bag of trash collected from the side of the road.
According to a news release from the Henry County Sheriff’s Office, Eggleston, 34, of Martinsville, was sentenced to 12 months in jail, with four months suspended, and was fined $1,000 for littering in Henry County.
The investigation began in early February, when Deputy M.W. Hooper contacted Eggleston as part of an investigation of trash dumped on Terry’s Mountain Road, the release said.
Hooper determined Eggleston was responsible for the trash and told him to pick it up, the release said.
Eggleston declined to do so and was charged with dumping trash on private property, according to the release and online court records.
A crew working with the Henry County Sheriff’s Office picked up eight bags of trash at the scene, the release said.
Young said he lives on Terry’s Mountain Road. “It’s one of the areas that has really been bad” for littering, he said.
“The sheriff’s office did an excellent job on the investigation,” Young said, adding it was a case based on circumstantial evidence.
Young said he has been advocating this area get “mean on clean.”
“A lot of progress” is being made in the local anti-litter/anti-dumping movement, he said.
“I compliment the (Henry County) Board of Supervisors, which has taken a really active role in trying to find solutions to a lot of the problems,” Young added.
On March 27, the supervisors voted to take up to $5,000 from the county’s then-$99,000 contingency fund to invest in surveillance cameras to catch violators. Vaughn said Friday the county is in the process of selecting cameras.
Vaughn has said he and Henry County Schools Superintendent Dr. Jared Cotton have discussed the possibility of incorporating anti-litter campaigns in schools. A program in the high schools would allow students to perform community service by picking up trash, while youngsters in lower grades would be educated on problems with littering so they would know from an early age that it is not acceptable.
Melany Stowe, a spokesman for the school system, said Friday that Henry County Schools and the Dan River Basin Association are sponsoring an anti-litter art contest and slogan contest open to all students from preschool through 12th grade. After spring break this week and through May 18, middle and high school students in classes such as English and business will have an opportunity to develop an anti-littering marketing plan as a class project, she added.
“We look forward to partnering with the community, for students to have a voice in this. It’s their community too,” Stowe said of the anti-littering/anti-dumping movement.
Young said “dozens and dozens” of people have expressed interest in getting involved and asked what they can do in their communities to help. He said he is seeing more and more people picking up trash in their neighborhoods.
Rewards need to be offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of perpetrators, he said.
Young also feels regulations should be changed so that the owner of a motor vehicle would lose his or her privilege to operate the vehicle for a period of time if a witness sees trash being thrown from the vehicle.
“This time (the anti-littering/anti-dumping effort) is not going to go away. It has before when we have not maintained interest. We have to keep pressure on those doing this” littering and dumping, and get out the message: “It’s unacceptable. It will not be tolerated,” he said.
“You can teach a mad dog a whole lot if you have a big stick,” Young said.
In a related matter, the Virginia Department of Transportation Adopt a Highway program’s spring cleanup is set for April 21-22. Anyone interested in participating in the Adopt a Highway program may call Linda Gaines, VDOT’s Adopt a Highway coordinator for this area, at 627-1513.