Florida Asks Citizens to Report Environmental Crime

TALLAHASSEE, Florida, april 14, 2008 (ENS) – Public outreach and education will help increase awareness of environmental crimes, and when people are aware of such crimes, they will report them to law enforcement authorities, according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, DEP.

The state agency intends to encourage this type of reporting by participating this week in the 7th annual National Environmental Crimes Prevention Week, sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Governor Charlie Crist has signed a proclamation designating the week of April 13 – 19 Environmental Crimes Prevention Week in Florida. In the proclamation, the governor said, “…environmental crime can harm countless people and resources, sometimes over a period of years or even decades…”

The governor said, “… all of Florida is affected by environmental crime, whether our tax dollars are used to clean up an illegal dump site or quality of air or water is diminished…”

“Environmental Crimes Prevention Week is an opportunity to educate Floridians about environmental crimes, including tips on prevention as well as how to recognize and report potential violations,” said DEP Division of Law Enforcement Director Henry Barnet.

DEP law enforcement agents investigate environmental resource crimes and illegal dredge and fill activities, and respond to natural disasters, civil unrest, hazardous material incidents and oil spills that can threaten the environment.

“By investigating environmental crimes, often as the result of citizen tips, DEP is putting a stop to the harmful effects of environmental crimes and protecting Florida’s resources for the future,” Barnet said.

Florida DEP personnel document pollutants in
cars pulled from a canal in Broward
County. (Photo courtesy DEP)

Environmental crimes are violations of state or federal environmental laws that could impact public health and the environment, such as illegal dumping or improper disposal of used oil.

Signs that an environmental crime has taken place could include corroded, leaking or abandoned waste containers; fish kills; illegal debris dumping in a natural area; or foul smelling or unsightly discharges or visible sheens on the ground or water bodies.

For investigation and enforcement actions, environmental crimes should be reported to law enforcement officials such as DEP’s Division of Law Enforcement or the toll-free, 24-hour hotline known as the State Warning Point. The Environmental Crimes Hotline is at: 1-877-272-8335

To report environmental crime, most cellphone customers in Florida can now dial #DEP.

Last year, the DEP’s Bureau of Emergency Response responded to more than 2,100 incidents and officials say that more than 90 percent of those were referred to the agency from the State Warning Point.

DEP’s Bureau of Environmental Investigations conducted about 350 criminal investigations in 2007, resulting in 133 arrests.

To help educate and inform the public on environmental crimes as well as DEP’s law enforcement activities, the Division of Law Enforcement today unveiled a new website.

The site features the activities of the division’s bureaus of Emergency Response, Environmental Investigations and Park Police as well as the Training Center.

Now available online is emergency contact information, tips on recognizing and reporting environmental crimes, career profiles of DEP law enforcement employees and “notes from the field” spotlighting on-the-job situations faced by DEP officers on Florida’s state parks, greenways and trails.

For more information on DEP’s Division of Law Enforcement, visit their new sebsite at: www.dep.state.fl.us.

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