Officials in Prince George’s County, Maryland, say they are cracking down on litterbugs and renewing efforts to clean up trash and debris that have piled up as county employees were sidelined during the coronavirus pandemic.
County Executive Angela Alsobrooks announced Thursday she is naming a new “litter czar,” responsible for leading a litter task force and expanding a camera-monitoring program to catch litterbugs in the act.
“For those who think that Prince George’s is an OK place to illegally dump stuff, like your mattresses and your raggedy couch and whatever else they have dumped, I want you to know also: We’ve got our eye on you, we’ve got our camera moving around.”
She said cases of illegal dumping and littering would be referred to the state’s attorney’s office, where there are already six recent cases pending.
Alsobrooks named Tiaa Rutherford, the litter reduction program manager in the county’s Department of Environment, to the new litter-fighting position.
“Prince George’s County has a litter czar, so we’re not playing,” she said.
The new czar will lead a task force focused on efforts to curb litter and illegal dumping.
County residents should expect to see more crews out on the roadways clearing up trash, Alsobrooks said.
“We were impacted last year because of COVID-19 in the way that our employees could work … And now with a better understanding of the virus and appropriate safeguards in place, we’re renewing our focus on county beautification,” Alsobrooks said. “Spring is here. And we care and we are proud of our county and want it to look beautiful.”
She stressed that county crews are only responsible for clearing litter from county roadways. Litter removal on state highways is the responsibility of state crews, so the county is coordinating with them on the cleanup effort.
Alsobrooks said she has received an earful from upset residents about the pileup of trash along roads and other green areas in the county but said many of those are state roads.
“You can’t imagine how many of these people are pissed off with me about Route 214 and who are pissed off with me about 202,” she said, adding, “So please help me tell Lottie, Dottie and everybody: If the road has a number on it, it is not a county road. So for those who have called and fussed me out about the whole thing, we’re working with the state because it does require partnership.”
In “litter blitzes” across the county so far, the county’s Department of Public Works and Transportation has collected 136 tons of litter, she said.
Over the long term, Alsobrooks said the county plans to rollout an app to track trash cleanup efforts, similar to an app that allows residents to follow the progress of snowplows during winter storms.
She said the cleanup efforts requires the community’s help, and she encouraged residents to sign up for the county “Growing Green with Pride” event, scheduled for Saturday, May 1, during which residents can pick up gloves, litter-pickers and other supplies and help pick up roadside litter and other dumped materials.
COVID-19: ‘Today, we’re in a different place’
Alsobrooks also discussed the county’s COVID-19 vaccination efforts and the ongoing fight against the coronavirus, saying that as the vaccine supply has increased, “our vaccination numbers have absolutely skyrocketed.”
In just a month, the number of residents with at least one dose has increased nearly threefold — to 267,000 residents with at least one dose.
The county has set a goal of vaccinating at least 65% of the county’s 16-and-older residents by the summer and is now halfway to meeting that goal, said Dr. George Askew, the county’s deputy chief administrative officer.
The number of coronavirus cases remains at a persistent plateau, but Askew said the county hasn’t seen any worrying spikes after Easter and spring break, which is a good sign.
The average daily case rate is around 19 new cases per day per 100,000 residents, which is high, Askew said.
“While it bubbles up and down, it’s actually starting to trend down in the face of being post-Easter, which again I think is terrific,” Askew said.
“Around this time a year ago, Prince George’s County was in the throes of a rapid surge in COVID cases, hospitalizations, death, and a lot of fear,” Askew said. “We were hit hard, but we fought back hard … Today, we’re in a different place.”