Nova Scotia

Shelburne County 'garbage CSI' officer seeks illegal dumping culprits

Darrell Locke, a bylaw officer with the Municipality of Shelburne, tracks down illegal dumpers by picking through garbage.

Darrell Locke is on the case, tracking down illegal dumpers and charging them

Darrell Locke said illegally dumped trash ranges from bags of household garbage to tires, fridges, electronics, paint cans and car batteries. (Darrell Locke)

It's the first full day of spring, a time of year when many of us want to get rid of all the clutter that fills our garages, basements and attics. 

But if you're tempted to simply toss all that bric-a-brac in the woods to avoid dumping fees, beware.

Darrell Locke is on the case, tracking down illegal dumpers and charging them. He's a bylaw officer in the Municipality of Shelburne.

"I'm the garbage CSI guy," Locke told CBC Radio's Mainstreet.

He spends a lot of time in the woods solving crimes by picking through garbage, looking for clues. If there's a report of illegal dumping in the area, he's on the case.

"Unfortunately, there aren't many roads you can drive on, not only in the Municipality of Shelburne but in the province, that you don't come across somebody's old fridge or a chesterfield or a television or computer. There's a fair amount of it."

'Just about anything people need to get rid of'

His office takes complaints from people who have found garbage and then Locke goes to the location to take photos and samples. The trash can be anything from bags of household garbage to tires, fridges, electronics, paint cans or car batteries, he said.

"Just about anything people need to get rid of." 

Locke carefully examines everything and then uses every tool at his disposal to match the garbage with the dumper.

He already knows a lot of people in the area so he uses his local contacts to get information.

"I can usually [find] a friend of a friend or an enemy of an enemy or an acquaintance and get back to where I need to be."

He also reaches out to other enforcement officers with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the Department of Natural Resources and the RCMP.

"I also creep on social media," said Locke.

He watches for clues on the social media feeds of people who have just painted their house or renovated. 

Wallpaper cracked a case

Locke said he was recently able to catch a dumper through a piece of wallpaper. He simply matched the old-fashioned wallpaper with a pile of renovation waste sitting in a man's front yard. 

In that case, the man initially denied dumping some of the renovation materials in the woods. But when he realized that Locke had a piece of his wallpaper, he confessed and agreed to clean up the garbage.

Locke said he's motivated to track down the dumpers because times have changed and it's wrong to simply abandon waste in the woods.

"It was acceptable back in the day, in rural Nova Scotia especially — a lot of folks had their own backyard dump and they had a burn barrel. That's how we dealt with solid waste. That's not acceptable anymore because what are we leaving behind for our future generations?"

Locke said his department began charging offenders after a case last year when a man abandoned three half-ton truck loads of renovation materials and garbage in the woods.

There was a conviction in that case. Since then, he said four more cases have also gone through the courts and there are a few more pending.

"We live in a beautiful province and there's really no need for people to throw their waste in and around the woods or in the ditches or whatever."

With files from Mainstreet Halifax

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