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Whitehaven residents say illegal dumping has gotten worse

“We’re trying to bring respect back to Whitehaven — bring investment back to Whitehaven," said Jason Shariff, Respect the Haven CDC.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Memphis has roughly 36,000 vacant properties, and many of those properties have become grounds for illegal dumping.

Back in April, Memphis City Council approved recommendations from the Blight and Illegal Dumping Task Force. Still, in Whitehaven, residents said they have seen illegal dumping get worse.

Whitehaven resident Jevon Wiggins said all he wants is to show his nephew a better life. 

“I just started something small, so he can get out here and do something to better himself and stay out of trouble,” said Wiggins, owner of "JHaven Shine on Me."

For about two years, Wiggins has been washing cars outside Southland Mall in his spare time. He said it is hard to show his nephew a positive path when illegal dumping is what he sees each day. 

"Some of my customers — they’ll drive off because it’s getting worse," he said "When I started off, there was no dump right there."

The problem doesn't contain itself at Southland Mall. Illegal dumping has also been spotted at a vacant gas station at West Raines and Horn Lake Roads. 

“If 'why' could be an emotion, that’s what I feel — 'Why?' It’s sad that people don’t care about the community enough whereby they would do these illegal dumpings,” said Pearl Walker of the "I Love Whitehaven Neighborhood and Business Association."

“It just gives you a different feel — a different energy,” said Wiggins.

It is an energy that Respect the Haven CDC’s Jason Shariff has been trying to fight. 

“We’re trying to bring respect back to Whitehaven — bring investment back to Whitehaven. One of the things that stop economic investment is blight,” Shariff said. “I would like to see Southland Mall become a permanent dump site and just have some dumpsters in the parking lot permanently.”

Robert Knecht, Memphis Public Works Director, said that this is a challenge because many vacant properties are also private commercial properties. 

"No one likes to hear the fact that if someone illegally dumps on their private property, it’s their responsibility to clean it up," Knecht said. "We can help the owner investigate and try to gather information."

He said the city initiated the "Environment Enforcement Department" and "Dumpster Days" as well as covert cameras to catch people in the act of illegal dumping. They are also looking to add two more dump sites around the city.

Still, residents such as Wiggins want more done. 

“I feel like the leaders don’t care because they always want to say that the youth is out of control," Wiggins said. "Maybe the youth — they can come start jobs picking up paper around the city. They could be painting the Southland Mall. I’m willing to start it off.”

Illegal dumping is a criminal offense that could carry anything from small fines to felony charges. 

Those who see any illegal dumping, are asked to call 311.

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