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Litter crackdown coming

Litterbugs beware — the city has a law against littering and offenders can be made to pay.

Litterbugs beware — the city has a law against littering and offenders can be made to pay.

Earlier this month city council asked if a bylaw existed that would help enforce ongoing litter issues around the city, specifically in Red Willow Park where rowdy teens are known to leave garbage.

According to municipal enforcement supervisor Special Const. Aaron Giesbrecht, the offence exists under the city's traffic bylaw and carries a $250 fine.

"So yes, if someone does throw a cigarette butt on the ground, a bag of chips — any of those kinds of things — it is an offence and someone can get a ticket for it," said Giesbrecht.

He said littering is a problem that's common to most municipalities, but it's especially bad in the spring when people start using the trail system. The difficulty, he said, is enforcing the rules.

"Basically we need a witness to catch somebody in the act, or we need to catch them in the act," he said. "I think in order to get better compliance on that, [programs] surrounding stronger enforcement and more education around that may help."

The city's public works department already counts litter pickup as a part of its job, but an official said additional enforcement can't hurt.

"As far as I'm concerned, our job is to keep the city as beautiful as possible and any litter is too much litter," said Bob Stephens, operations manager for St. Albert public works.

Unfortunately for trail-side neighbourhoods like Braeside and Forest Lawn, the problem isn't always limited to cigarette butts and discarded snack wrappers.

Shopping carts from St. Albert Centre are also dumped in the river, at times numbering half a dozen near the bridge behind the mall.

According to Stephens, the city does everything it can to pull the carts out but timing can be an issue.

"We do a river clean up a couple times a year, but we can't go in the river right now because of the spawning of the fish," Stephens said.

Giesbrecht warned that dumping carts in the river goes beyond a bylaw infraction.

"When someone takes possession of that cart, and takes it off of the property of the store or the mall, now it's theft," said Giesbrecht.

Earlier this month, the RCMP said it plans to step up enforcement in areas were littering and vandalism are an issue. Bike and foot patrols are not out of the question.

As for the bylaws, Giesbrecht said collecting on the fine can sometimes be an issue, but police powers aren't limited.

"If they [the offenders] have a driver's licence or some kind of link to the motor vehicle branch then it would be tracked through there," he said. "If they don't have one, the officer can get a warrant for the person's arrest and that is actually quite common for bylaw offences."

But the city's bylaw offences aren't limited to littering.

Four-legged offenders

Last week, the city issued a press release saying it would step up enforcement on dog licensing starting this month.

According to the RCMP, there's been an increase in the number of unlicensed dogs in the city and there are 1,200 outstanding dog license accounts that owners have failed to renew.

"We've noticed there's officers picking up dogs that less and less people actually have the licences [for], and those are the ones that we know about and actually catch," Giesbrecht said.

Under the Animal Control Bylaw, all dog owners are required to have licenses for dogs six months or older. The standard license fee is $65, with a reduced rate of $35 for dogs that are spayed or neutered. Failure to pay the license fee can result in a $90 fine, or $180 for a second offence.

Giesbrecht said the idea behind the licensing system is to control the pet population that would otherwise increase with stray animals on the loose, and also to help recover some of the cost of reuniting pets with their owners or putting them up for adoption.

"And rather than basically charging those extra fees onto general taxes for the whole entire population, and a lot of them don't have dogs, these fees basically help pay for those costs," he said.

Residents are urged to contact the RCMP to renew or obtain a dog licence.