KNOXVILLE (WATE) – You may have noticed trash along the roadways in Knox County piling up. It’s not because the county isn’t doing its job, but DUI offenders no longer have to pull trash duty as a way of working off their arrests.
There were only two DUI offenders picking up litter along Greenwell Road during WATE 6 On Your Side’s visit to Halls. Having two on the job is actually considered a good day by the crew supervisor.
“A year ago, we would have had maybe eight or ten people today instead of two people. Right now that’s a good crew. Some days one may show up or none will show up,” said litter crew supervisor Dave Shelton.
As a result, the amount of litter along the 2,000 roadways in Knox County is piling up.
“In the past we were up to date on our tickets. We even had times when people would call in the morning and say my road got trashed over night, so we could get that after lunch same day,” said Knox County Solid Waste Manager Tom Salter. “Not now.”
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Last year, there was no labor shortage of DUI littler crews. It was then mandatory for convicted DUI offenders to work 24 hours picking up trash and 24 hours behind bars. But after July 1, 2016, the state legislature changed the law. DUI offenders now must serve all their time in jail. As a result, fewer offenders are picking up litter today compared to a year ago.
“Some days, yes, during the week we would have a dozen. That way we could start crews at separate ends of the road and knock out a three-mile long road in the morning, whereas with two people that would take you all day, if you get it done,” said Shelton.
Litter is still being picked up. Many people still take the shortcut and throw stuff out their car windows. Today, the the DUI crews are made up of offenders convicted before July of last year. Many others can help in the effort, through the Adopt-a-Road program made up of volunteers. This year more than 60 teams have been working, but more are needed.
“They have to do a mile or more. We’re thinking 75 to 100 miles of road way was cleaned up by volunteers,” said Salter.
The county has also come up with other sources of manpower to clean up litter, including the CAPP program, or Community Alternative to Prison. The new Recovery Court Program and the Knox County Clerk’s Office are all providing a community service requirement.
“They are allowing them to work off fines by picking up litter. This is with approval of the judge,” said Salter.