Officer on the prowl against litter

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 8, 2003

Like every other officer in the Selma Police Department, Clyde Carter spends his shift trying to keep the city streets clean. Only instead of searching for drugs or criminals, officer Carter’s job is to find, well, trash.

As the city’s litter control officer, Carter puts the bright florescent orange stickers on abandoned vehicles and warns citizens to rid their property of piled up junk and trash bags.

It’s a dirty job, but someone has to do it, and in this case Carter’s the man.

Beginning June 16, however, Carter will be issuing fewer warning stickers and a lot more citations to those who disobey the “cleanliness of premise” municipal code.

“No cars should be on blocks in your yard, and trash needs to be kept in the proper containers with lids,” Carter said. “There is no excuse for not cleaning around your property.”

Carter said around 15-to-20 cars a month are ordered removed from private property, while another 10 cars a month are towed from public property. Cleanliness citations could cost the property or vehicle owner $50 or more, plus court costs.

“There will be some who don’t like it, but I have to do my job,” Carter said.

Carter said another problem comes from the number of businesses not keeping the area around their dumpsters clean, along with people leaving grass clippings and tree limbs on the streets, which clog drains and cause flooding.

“The dumpsters, abandoned vehicles, and standing water are a haven for mosquitoes,” officer Carter said. “This could lead to problems with the West Nile virus.”

Carter’s been lenient so far, he says, in asking people to remove their abandoned vehicles. He usually gives them five days to do it.

“I have to go strictly by the book,” Carter said. “It’s wasting time and tax-payer’s money to put stickers on people’s cars and having them towed.”

Warren Hinson, Selma Police Department public information officer, said a lot of Selma residents appreciate what officer Carter does.

“People want to live in a clean city,” Hinson said. “They don’t want to live or work in an area that looks bad.”

Carter said many Selma residents are not fully aware of the municipal codes, especially that vehicles can be towed at no expense to the owner.

“A owner should call a wrecker service and work something out with them first. If that doesn’t work, they can call me, and I can get the vehicle towed for them,” Carter said.

Carter has the right to go on private property and make arrests, he says. Paying city taxes does not give citizens permission to harbor abandoned vehicles on their property and they can be towed.

This fact can cause problems among

people who are not too happy about police seizing vehicles. When one citizen began harassing Carter during a recent towing, the officer responded by saying “you don’t know me and I don’t know you. It’s best you mind your own business or you could be posting bond.”

“You just have to be tough on these people,” Carter earlier explained. “Giving them warnings is not helping.”