Environmental enforcement tracking county crime

Dwindling documentation detailing the county environmental enforcement unit’s activity is one side effect of being short staffed, their director said.
Ector County has three officers within their environmental enforcement unit, including the director who also serves as the county’s emergency management coordinator, and they are looking to add to their staff to more effectively combat illegal dumping and handle the administrative workload.
The director of the Ector County Environmental Enforcement Unit, Rickey George, said statistics documented by the unit showed 702 total cases were filed between October 2017 and September 2018. The data also tracked monthly totals for the number of junked vehicles removed, 52 overall, as well as about 2,362 tons of trash removed annually.
George said the total number of cases in a given year equates to known incidents of illegal dumping to demonstrate a crime analysis of how big the problem is in the county, but not all cases listed are resolved due to a lack of evidence and resources.
“That means if we drive by and see a mattress on the side of road then we identify that as an act of illegal dumping and document it as such,” he said. “That doesn’t mean that we know who did it.”
Information gathered by the environmental enforcement unit was more in depth in previous years.
In 2016, the unit was established as an independent department within Ector County, but before that they had brief stints under the umbrella of both the Ector County Attorney’s Office and the Ector County Health Department.
An annual report from 2012 detailed additional information such as the number of citations written, arrests made and community cleanups organized. During that year, the program consisted of one investigator, two part-time deputies and two reserve deputies.
The director said improper disposal of litter and solid waste is a health and safety issue for the public. Sewage, medical waste and construction debris are some examples he gave of what officers can find scattered across the 900 square miles in the county.
He said illegal dumping is one of many problems the county has experienced with the growth of the county population, and said he intends to ask for more employees for this upcoming budget cycle.
Data is often used to help county departments display a need for additional employees, but for George’s unit that may not be necessary. County residents have thrown their support behind the officers during numerous town halls and Ector County commissioners have voiced intent to assist the unit with more funding in the future.
George said his primary measure of success is tracking the tons of illegally dumped solid waste and litter cleaned up by offenders since the unit does not keep track of convictions.
“We do good to track what we do now,” George said. “It’s very administratively burdensome and we don’t have an administrative assistant,” he said. “You would just be constantly extracting data versus actually working.”
Abandoned furniture and garbage found along county roads or left on vacant lots is an ongoing concern for investigators of environmental crimes and George said his small team places a greater importance on being in the field than in the office.