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‘Litterbugs Are Trash!’
Bumper stickers raise awareness, eyebrows
A Henry County Sheriff’s Office car has one of the new stickers that reads, “Litterbugs Are Trash!” The stickers have prompted some concerns, but most officials say they have not heard any complaints. (Bulletin photo)
Tuesday, July 31, 2012
By DEBBIE HALL - Bulletin Staff Writer
Anti-litter decals on marked law enforcement vehicles are intended to raise awareness of the area’s litter problem, but they also are raising some eyebrows.
The stickers, which depict bugs and the words “Litterbugs Are Trash!” were donated to local law enforcement agencies by Martinsville attorney Reid Young III, who has been outspoken about the litter issue, according to Henry County Sheriff Lane Perry.
Young “asked if we would put the bumper stickers on the marked cars, and we agreed to,” Perry said. “The county did not buy the stickers.”
He said it was his understanding that other local law enforcement agencies also put the stickers on marked vehicles.
“(So far), we really haven’t received any feedback, positive or negative,” the sheriff said.
But that is not the case in Martinsville, where Police Capt. Marshall Thomas said the department already is considering alternatives.
“There have been some people who have expressed their concern about those particular stickers,” Thomas said. “Everything that I have heard wasn’t positive.”
People who commented “could tell that whoever came up with that slogan was really upset with the littering problem,” Thomas said. “But for us, the police, to say litterbugs are trash, that’s kind of tough” for many area residents to accept.
“We want to look at something different and more appropriate, so that people will accept it in a positive way,” he said.
Stickers under consideration include the words “‘Don’t litter. It’s the law,’ and also may specify the fine, because we want people to know what the consequences are if they litter,” Thomas said.
Littering is a Class 1 misdemeanor and punishable either by up to a $2,500 fine, 12 months in jail, or both, he added.
The city likely will pay for the new stickers, Thomas said, but he does not yet know the cost.
“We are trying to decide exactly what sticker we’re going to use. We’re looking at different decals,” he said.
Young said he has had no negative comments or feedback on the decals. He said he thinks they pinpoint the problem, “and I would challenge anyone to tell me that they are inappropriate.”
“I have absolutely had nothing but people indicating they wish it had been done a long time ago. I think most people think littering” — and the problem in Henry County and Martinsville — “is bad. I’ve tried to make it very clear what I think of people throwing garbage in your yard and my yard. It’s unconscionable,” Young said.
Litter makes the area look bad and is counterproductive to economic development efforts, officials and Young have said.
Young said he is convinced that the decal is “not nearly as offensive as I feel it should be. If it’s upsetting to those people, then I’ll really upset them.”
He said he tempered the message on the bumper stickers so they “would not be overly offensive.” But he added that he defends using the stickers to raise awareness of the problem and its effect on the community.
A survey of several area county and city officials found support for the intent of the bumper stickers. None of those surveyed had heard any objections to their message.
Martinsville Sheriff Steve Draper said the litter stickers were put on marked cars at his office a few weeks ago, and so far, “we have not heard comments one way or the other.”
Draper’s office oversees the inmate work crews that pick up trash in various areas of the city and county, and he said litter is an ongoing problem in the community.
For example, in Henry County just during the month of June, Draper said inmates worked 544 hours to bag and pick up 336 bags of litter from roadways.
“Whether we like the design” of the current bumper sticker “or not, it gets the message out, and until we can come up with a better slogan or a more appropriate sticker,” Draper said he intends to keep the decals on marked vehicles.
“Something has got to be done about the litter problem, and if anybody can come up with a better solution, I’ll be glad to look at it. But our community is in bad straits with the trash and garbage being thrown out,” Draper said. “Under the circumstances, the decal is the best alternative we’ve got right now.”