JACKSON, Miss.—Jackson residents have long complained about the proliferation of used tires, dilapidated pieces of furniture and household trash like plastic grocery bags littered along the side of the road in some neighborhoods across the capital city.

But now there’s a renewed effort to address illegal dumping, City of Jackson Solid Waste Supervisor Lakesha Weathers told the Crirec on April 24.

She couldn’t pinpoint why illegal dumping in Jackson has increased in recent years but said she believes a “change in mindset” and people taking advantage of the more desolate areas of the city has contributed to the issue.

“We’ve always had a little dumping. Every city has a little dumping,” Weathers said. “It used to be where people would dump on those dark, back roads. Now, they dump everywhere. We’ve seen a significant increase.”

Weathers said it’s an issue across all seven of the city’s wards, but added that Ward Six and some areas of Ward Five are consistently the hardest hit.

Tires lay along the side of the road in the Pocahontas Heights neighborhood in North Jackson in April 2024. Photo by Shaunicy Muhammad

“People look for dark, unkempt roads,” she said. “One of our biggest (problem) areas in North Jackson is on Hilda Drive. That’s in a business community, you wouldn’t expect that. But Hilda is unlit and unkempt. In South Jackson, you have Glen Erin, that’s another street.”

“That’s what people are looking for. They’re looking for those streets that people rarely travel and turn them into dump sites,” Weathers said.

‘A General Safety Hazard’

The prevalence of illegal dumping can have negative effects on the environment and quality of life for residents, Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality Waste Division Director Trent Jones said in a statement to the Crirec in February.

“Larger dumps can potentially interfere with drainage and contribute to localized flooding. Waste materials that enter state waters (including surface waters or groundwaters) can negatively impact water quality for humans, wildlife, and aquatic species,” he said.

“Illegal dumps can also be a general safety hazard and contribute to a variety of nuisance conditions in local communities,” Jones continued.

Additionally, Jones said, “a proliferation of illegal dumping can potentially impact local property values and negatively impact economic development.”

The City of Jackson published this Guide to Dispose Responsibly. Photo courtesy City of Jackson Facebook

And the clean-up of illegal dump sites costs states and local governments millions of dollars annually, he added.

Over the years, local and state lawmakers have proposed different solutions to dissuade people from dumping.

In January, Sen. John Horhn, D-Jackson, introduced Senate Bill 2016, which proposed increased fines for those found illegally dumping solid waste in Jackson and across the state. The bill passed unanimously in the Republican-led Senate only to die in a House committee on April 2, 2024, without ever getting a vote on the floor of the Republican-led lower chamber.

Mayor Threatens ‘Perp Walks’ For Illegal Dumping

At a press conference at City Hall on April 1, the Jackson Police Department announced a partnership with Keep Jackson Beautiful and the creation of the neighborhood enhancement team, a new task force that will cite people for illegally dumping.

The department plans to install new blue light cameras to deter dumping and increase surveillance at common hot spots, JPD Chief Joseph Wade said.

Jackson Mayor Choke Lumumba speaks to reporters inside Jackson City Hall in 2019 with the JPD police chief and an officer behind him
“We’re serious about a clean Jackson,” Mayor Chowe A. Lumumba said on April 1, 2024. Photo by Ashton Pittman

Mayor Chokwe A. Lumumba warned that JPD would “perp walk” individuals who engage in illegal dumping in the city. “We’re serious about picking up litter in our city. We’re serious about a clean Jackson,” the Democratic mayor said on April 1.

City of Jackson Solid Waste Division Supervisor Lakesha Weathers said on April 24, 2024, that the prevalence of trash in Jackson can largely be attributed to contractors who clean homes and businesses and decide to unload their waste throughout the city instead of at designated dumping sites.

She also believes much of the waste is hauled into the city from outside sources rather than from those who live in Jackson.

“I truly believe that the majority of our illegal dumping is coming into the city. I wouldn’t put that onus on our residents that live here,” Weathers said. “I’m not saying they don’t but the majority of what we see is coming into the city.”

Piles of furniture, toys and clothes are seen at a dumping site on Hickory Drive in South Jackson. Photo by Shaunicy Muhammad

She urged Jacksonians to continue to be active in the fight against illegal dumping.

“I want people to take back the ownership of their communities and show people ‘We’re here. You can’t do that here,’” Weathers said.

You can learn more about the City of Jackson’s Solid Waste Division at Solid Waste Division – Jackson (jacksonms.gov). Call 601-960-0000 to report illegal dumping.

Capital City reporter Shaunicy Muhammad has an enduring interest in social-justice issues, class inequality, Africana studies and cultural storytelling.

Her educational background includes a journalism degree from Spring Hill College in Mobile, Ala. Her time as an undergraduate student culminated with the production of the senior research project “Black Unrest, Riots and How Newspapers Frame the Narrative of African American Social Protest,” which analyzed patterns in the narratives reporters used when explaining the social unrest and uprisings after the deaths of Freddie Gray, Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown.

She is reporting on the capital city with a year-long focus on causes, effects and solutions for systemic inequities in South Jackson, supported by a grant from the Center for Disaster Philanthropy.

Email her at [email protected].