TOLEDO (WTOL) - Toledo City leaders will be enforcing stricter penalties for illegal dumping in the Glass City. They announced a zero tolerance policy Thursday afternoon.

Those caught dumping trash in Toledo's neighborhoods will be charged with "reckless dumping" and face a minimum of 10 days in jail and a $500 fine.

Illegal dumping drives down property values, attracts health and safety hazards like mosquitos and other wildlife, and sends a message of crime and blight. Besides these risks, leaders said dumping costs taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars.

"It sends a signal to the people who live in that neighborhood that something's gone wrong. Something's wrong with their neighborhood, nobody cares. That couldn't be further from the truth and we're not going to take it anymore,” Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz said.

Neighbors welcome the city’s move. Illegal dumping has plagued numerous neighborhoods throughout Toledo. Didi Fitzgerald has lived on Utah Street in East Toledo for a number of years and frequently sees numerous items dumped a block from her home.

She would like to see more preventative measures like hidden cameras from city leaders.

"Let people know that they are under surveillance. Let people know that this area is under surveillance, and it's just not welcome here,” Didi Fitzgerald said.

In Fitzgerald’s neighborhood, Toledo taxpayers spent $21,000 dollars to clean up dumping in just the 1400 block of Utah Street last year. They've already spent $6,000 to clean up the same East Toledo area this year.

Yet Fitzgerald pointed out that her street is cleaner now than it has been in a while. She credits recent publicity and city and police efforts to its cleanliness. She hopes the message will spread to other neighborhoods.

John Pina’s family lives on Utah Street. A contractor with the city, Pina often finds himself answering calls to clean up trash and dumped items.

“We work our butts off to be honest with you. We put a lot of sweat and a lot of effort in disposing of and getting rid of these things: mattresses and really gross things that are being left on the sides of these roads. We're tired of it,” John Pina of A.C.E.S. Services said.

Toledo City taxpayers spend $40,000 a year on contractors like Pina to clean up illegal dumping.

With warmer weather around the corner and tax returns soon to come in, Fitzgerald and Pina said they worry people will once again start discarding their old furniture and items in their neighborhood.

In March 2019 alone, there were 27 new investigations, 40 continued investigations, 17 evidence reports, 12 traffic/all-purpose citations issued, 5 warrants issues, and 4 warnings in lieu of warrants related to illegal dumping.

Illegal dumpers used to face just a nuisance violation and thus a fine. Now, under charges of reckless dumping, they'll face jail time.

"Citations have been out there, but the citations get lost in the process and not much happens with it,” Toledo City Councilman Peter Ujvagi said.

Additionally, illegal dumping costs our police force $60,000 a year. Leaders believe that special taskforce of 13 officers could be better spent on more pressing issues.

"The police department has unmarked cars and officers assigned to this, untold resources. And we’re happy to do it because this something that’s crucially important to the quality of life for Toledoans, but boy, those resources could better be spent,” Mayor Kapszukiewicz said.

Leaders want you to know your options.

"There are 12 different sites throughout the city where you can take your mattresses and your large loads, and dispose of them correctly,” Mayor Kapszukiewicz said.

Toledo offers 12 different free recycling events from April to September, with vendors available to take electronic waste, paint, secured document destruction, general debris, and tires.

There will also be four free disposal days at the Hoffman Road Landfill from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. June 1, July 6, Sept. 7, and Nov. 30. You can bring a truck or trailer load of bulky solid waste items for free disposal at the landfill, 3962 Hoffman Rd, subject to certain conditions. A current utility bill and valid photo ID will be required to verify your residency.

Residents are also allowed one free monthly bulk curbside pickup, which you can schedule by calling Engage Toledo at 419-936-2020.

If you see someone dumping in your neighborhood, city leaders urge you to take action. Try to take a picture of the trash dumper’s license plate and call Engage Toledo.