RICHMOND (KPIX 5) — Some residents of North Richmond say the city is allowing trash to be dumped in their neighborhood and one man has begun a crusade to document the problem.
There are places in North Richmond where trash dumping is so common that residents don’t complain about it anymore. To them, it’s become a symbol of how the city feels about them. Espinosa Matthews has lived in this neighborhood his whole life and the trash piled up next to his bus stop means one thing to him.
“That they don’t care about this neighborhood and this neighborhood is a bunch of trash,” Matthews said.
Trash hauling is a cottage industry in North Richmond, with a county landfill located nearby. But not all the refuse ends up there. There are piles of garbage along streets and in vacant lots and most people have just come to accept it. But Tom Sumner isn’t one of them.
“This is what I wanted you to see, right here. This is the big problem,” Samner said as he took us on a driving tour of his neighborhood. He pointed to a large pile of household garbage dumped just off the sidewalk in a vacant lot.
Sumner was so disgusted by what he’s seen that he bought a GoPro camera and now documents the trash piles, complaining regularly to City Hall about it.
“I get cops in the city of Richmond saying they won’t fine anybody or cite anybody because they can’t afford it,” he said. “Why not get a program going where they can come out and work off their fine by getting out here and cleaning up some stuff?”
He says one of the big problems is the city allows trash and recycling haulers to park their trucks in the residential neighborhood. That leads to junk on the sidewalks and eventually everybody sees the area as a convenient place to dump.
“I call them each night, almost every other day. I say, ‘That truck is still there, you can’t let that truck stay there. It’s against the law,'” he said.
Ironically, Sumner is accused of causing blight himself. He’s gotten warnings from the city to replace the cracked and peeling paint on his house and remove a shipping container from his back yard. But he thinks it’s just an attempt to discredit his efforts to get the trash removed.
“It’s frustrating because I found that I have to start documenting, going around the city and taking photos and videos of everything I see because I see all around me all these bad conditions,” he said.
We couldn’t reach anyone from the city on Wednesday to comment but Sumner says his neighborhood may be an inconvenient place to do regular cleanups because it is a city island surrounded by county land.
Sumner admits he’s been a bit pushy about this with the city and says he wants to take a kinder approach. But he says he won’t stop trying because he’s seen what happens when people give up.