OAKLAND (KPIX 5) — Oakland residents hoping to cash in when they catch people illegally dumping trash on their streets say the city isn’t honoring its half of the deal – rewarding them.
“I’m trying to do the right thing. The worst thing that I saw dumped was this pit bull,” Derrick Soo told KPIX 5.
Soo has made documenting illegal dumpers a part time job.
“We get the city workers down here saying you guys are doing a great job,” Soo said.
He began documenting illegal dumping after seeing a poster offering rewards.
“It’s not only catching them in the act, but you’ve got to go through calling it into the city, or emailing the city. Then they respond back and they want all the pictures, they want a declaration,” Soo said.
He’s also been asked to testify.
The reward for his hard work is supposed to be half of whatever the city collects in fines from the illegal dumpers he helped catch.
“We have more than doubled the numbers of witnesses reporting illegal dumping over the course of that pilot which has been tremendous,” Oakland City Administrator Sabrina Landreth said.
So tremendous, that Landreth says she’s asked the city council to approve the pilot program permanently.
Last year alone, the city received more than 500 tips, resulting in 81 citations, and $25,000 collected in fines.
But one year, eight cases, four investigations and two citations later, Soo was still waiting for his fair share
Soo needs the money more than most.
“Any kind of extra little money when you live on the streets is real helpful,” Soo said.
After losing his business, his home, and battling a series of severe medical issues, Soo ended up on the street.
“I receive less than $1,000 a month to live on, so I can’t even rent an apartment,” Soo said.
Meanwhile, the city collected more than $25,000 last year with the promise of paying 50% in rewards, but admits it’s paid out far less.
She points out not everyone wants to collect their reward, but couldn’t explain why Soo never received his.
“I can only say, moving forward we need to streamline our communications and frankly our payouts,” Landreth said.
The city says it does struggle to collect from illegal dumpers even after they track them down and issue citations.
Of the 81 citations issued, only 26 violators have paid some part of what they owe.