By: Andrew Turco
A driver can be seen dodging beer bottles, plastic Wawa bags and trashcans that have blown in the wind, scattered on the streets of Paulsboro, NJ.
Members in Paulsboro’s Administration Building, including the Code Office and Police, say that the towns littering problem stems from landlords’ lack of overseeing their properties.
The short staffed and overworked Code Office in Paulsboro are responsible for managing the trash problem, along with zoning and housing coding that make up a bulk of their work hours.
Although the trash problem may not be Paulsboro’s Code Officer Wayne Bender’s first priority, the 10 to 15 resident calls a month about complaints of trash do not let him, or the office, forget about the issue.
According to the Code Office and Paulsboro Police, the problem is not with the tenants, but the landlords.
“We proactively go out and tell the landlords to clean it,” said Bender.
Out of 1,980 residential properties, 1029 are rental, which means most of the town is based on rental occupancy, according to the office. The Code Office and many of the other municipalities gather many more trash violations from rental occupancy than homeowners, according to Bender.
Many of the landlords who own the properties do not live in the town of Paulsboro, which causes less participation in upkeep of trash around their buildings, according to Bender.
“We’d hope that we can get more complaints so we can address it right away,” said Bender.
The people who live in the rented locations do not have as much respect for their property compared to an individual who owns their own home, explained Paulsboro Police Chief Vernon Marino.
Once the office gets a complaint from a resident, an officer is ordered to go out to the specific lot or street to confirm the complaint.
The Code Office will follow up on complaints that are confirmed by contacting the landlords through their own personal email address and phone number that they have on record in the office.
“Sometimes they [landlords] don’t even know there is a problem,” said Frank Turnon.
The Rental Housing Inspector in the understaffed Code Office, Turnon, helps Bender with the trash problem after his work duties. He, plus the only two inspectors in the office, patrol specific sections of the town that are known to produce the most trash build up on streets and lots.
The town has three different pickup days throughout the week; Monday is trash, Tuesday and Thursday is recycling. Public works monitor the trash holding.
Public works and those who pick up trash and recycling aren’t required to throw out the trash that they may see on the ground, even throughout their routes, according to Turnon.
The trash left on the ground stays there until a resident or one of the only five people in the Code Office takes action.
The office explained that the town does not offer residents any trashcans and recycling bins with lids, which causes trash debris from wind to pile up on the street, sidewalk or empty lots.
Chief Vernon Marino, along with Paulsboro Police Deputy Chief Gary Kille, described the trash problem through a criminology theory called the Broken Windows Theory.
“Once you let some litter gather throughout a specific area, than more and more litter accumulates,” said Chief Marino.
The Chief explained that his officers and the rest of the municipalities try to focus on the little stuff so that it is less likely to grow into a problem.
“It is more important for them [police] to get the bad guys than get the trash,” said Bender.