Reporter's note: This story has been amended from an earlier version.
A recent grant from Keep Longview Beautiful will pay for cameras to keep watch on suspected illegal dumpers and other criminals, according to city staff.
When city employees placed surveillance cameras outside Longview Public Library last week, they had no idea the culprits scattering trash onto the front plaza were masked, four-legged critters.
“They were digging in the trash and then strewing the trash all over the place,” Development Services Director Michael Shirley said of the three raccoons caught on camera rummaging through garbage from city trash bins.
“So, we’ve changed trash cans so they can’t,” Community Services Director Laura Hill said.
Though municipal surveillance cameras have been helpful not only in deterring illegal dumping but also catching images of two-legged suspects committing various crimes, Shirley said the city’s fleet of cameras needed a boost.
Keep Longview Beautiful has granted the city’s Code Compliance Division a $750 grant for more, better cameras, he said.
“It will allow us to buy four additional cameras,” Shirley said.
Keep Longview Beautiful also presented a community enhancement grant to the city’s Recycling Division in the past week. Meanwhile, Jason Jones-Allstate Insurance Agency donated $1,500 to the beautification group, according to the Keep Longview Beautiful’s social media pages.
Code Compliance Supervisor Kenneth James said the new Moultrie M-999i game cameras ordered with the grant have higher megapixel resolution, allowing them to capture images up to 80 feet away versus the 50-foot limitation of the city’s existing cameras.
Staff place the cameras at various locations around the city, generally after property owners complain of illegal dumping, but they’ve also aided Longview Police Department criminal investigations.
“We’ll have areas where there’s illegal dumping of trash or construction debris, so we’ll set cameras up to see what they’ve done,” Shirley said. “We’ve caught several (suspects) and had one situation where a camera caught someone who had stolen a car, because they came and dumped the stolen car, and we were able to catch them on camera.”
The cameras cost about $500 total. The remaining $250 will pay for materials that the Public Works Division will use to construct 10 metal signs that warn people that surveillance cameras are in use.
“I think in the past that we’ve gotten some plastic (signs) that people have just ripped down,” Shirley said. “I think it fits into the mission of Keep Longview Beautiful.”
As for the library, Hill said staff have found no more strewn trash on the plaza since replacing the bins, proving to her that the raccoons caught on film were the guilty culprits.