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Cracking down on environmental crimes in Clay County

Clay Sheriff's Office: Environmental crimes are dangerous, costly

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If you're caught illegally dumping or committing other environmental crimes, like illegal burning in Clay County, deputies warn it is dangerous and you will be fined.

The Clay County Sheriff's Office has a special team of detectives who investigate these crimes called the Environmental Crimes Unit . The unit says the biggest problem they see is illegal dumping. The Sheriff's Office says these crimes cost tax payers thousands of dollars. These crimes have taken them many places.

Detectives Gary Winterstein and Robert Dews often work with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Department of Environmental Protection inspecting businesses and properties. 

PHOTOS: Detectives battle illegal dumping 

"There's only two of us, sometimes a lot of these things will go from different counties. They'll be transported. We go wherever we have to go," said Winterstein.

Their experiences have shown them everything from household items to hazardous materials that have been dumped. Winterstein said that incidents led to an arrest. In another case, discharged oil had seeped into the ground. The detectives say all of these crimes are dangerous to the environment. 

People have also dumped tires, which is dangerous to the environment. When they're left out for long periods of time, rain can become trapped in the tire's opening. From there, it can become a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

Last year alone detectives cleaned up 186,830 pounds of illegally dumped waste. If some one is caught illegally dumping they could be fined up to $10,000 or even receive jail time. Detectives warn people to think twice about dumping.

"There's a good chance you're going to get caught. We catch a lot of the offenders," said Winterstein. 

If you see someone dumping, you can call the Clay County Sheriff's Office Environmental Crimes Unit on Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. at 278-3697 or 541-5823. After hours or on holidays you can call 264-6512. 

It is recommended you not approach an illegal dumper. But get the dumper's vehicle make and color, their license plate number, descriptions of the people inside the vehicle, and where and when the dumping occurred.

About the Authors:

Ashley Harding joined the Channel 4 news team in March 2013 and reports every weekday for The Morning Show.