In the nearly 20 years of working for the Salvation Army, Henry James can't recall the storefront ever being so clean when arriving at the downtown thrift shop in the mornings.
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The nonprofit organization recently installed security cameras to monitor the storefront after years of absorbing the cost from people dumping undesirable donations in the middle of the night.
"It's good coming to work and not having to clean up," said James, the thrift shop manager. "We wasted more time cleaning the outside than cleaning the inside."
Capt. Jack Smith, corps officer for the Salvation Army in Juneau, said the nonprofit organization was spending an average of $500 to $800 a month disposing of people's junk at the city landfill.
The three cameras installed cost less than one month's dump charges the Salvation Army was paying, he said.
"It was either spend the money and buy the camera system or continue to pay high dump fees," Smith said.
The nonprofit organization was getting stuck with the dump fees because it was difficult for the Juneau Police Department to enforce litter laws because they had to catch someone in the act.
Sgt. Dave Campbell said officers try to identify offenders who litter by items that may link a person to the junk, such as an address on mail or names on receipts. He said the officers must have proof to issue citations.
"I think with the video cameras in place it might be a way to determine owners - vehicle owners or determine who people are," he said. "It would be another tool that either the officer or community service officer could use to determine ownership."
Citations for a first littering offense is $200, a second offense is $250, and a third offense is $300. Officers also can issue a verbal warning, Campbell said.
The dump charges have been piling up, Smith said, especially when people discard dilapidated furniture and broken-down appliances. For example, a refrigerator costs the organization $80 to dispose of at the dump, he said.
"Every dollar that I have to spend taking stuff to the dump is a dollar taken away from being put to use in the community," he said.
The thrift shop also has placed large, bright signs on its windows to alert would-be litterbugs that the video cameras are there.
"We're trying to make it a deterrent so we want people to realize that it's there," Smith said.
James said that the security cameras seem to have already made a difference in the short time since they've been installed.
"So far we've had a clean front since we installed those cameras and put those signs up that there is surveillance on the premises," he said.
Smith said people who are interested in providing donations to the Salvation Army should do so during the thrift store's business hours, which are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Mondays through Saturdays.
Contact Eric Morrison at 523-2269 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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