Police arrested a Harrisburg man Thursday, charging him criminally, after investigators say he illegally dumped trash behind a church on South Cameron Street over the course of the week.
Charles Patrick Whittington faces charges of criminal mischief and theft by deception on top of code violations for dumping couches, boxes and other things in an overflow parking lot behind the Redeemer Community Church.
“It’s always been an issue, but it does seem to be worse right now,” said Dauphin County Commissioner Jeff Haste.
The issue of illegal dumping, including who’s doing it and where, has turned political in recent weeks in light of Mayor Linda Thompson’s recent comment when she said, “We’re not opening up our floodgates for some scumbag that comes from Perry County who got the money and pocketed it, comes here and wants to dump it for free.”
She later apologized and said the comment was taken out of context.
During Thursday’s announcement she said she still believes the issue is a regional one and is damaging to the city’s ability to bring in new businesses.
“A perpetrator such as this one is an enemy,” said Thompson. “Projects like this are critical to sending a loud message that we are not your waste ground.”
First Assistant District Attorney Fran Chardo said Whittington was arrested Thursday and is being held in the Dauphin County Prison for probation violations. Chardo said Whittington also was in violation of Megan’s Law.
Chardo said someone paid Whittington to haul the trash to a legal dumping site. Witnesses helped identify Whittington, Chardo said. Investigators also sifted through the trash and found items identifying whose trash it was.
Pastor Bin Hwang said since he noticed the garbage piling up Monday, he was concerned about the cost to the church. He pointed out he leads a small congregation with a small budget.
“How do we deal with this? And then, suddenly, by God’s grace, someone called me,” said Hwang.
County crews hauled the trash out of the parking lot Thursday afternoon. Chardo said if there’s a conviction in the case, he wants Whittington to reimburse the county for the cost of the cleanup.
County leaders recently reconstituted its Illegal Dumping Task Force, which is a seven-member group aimed at curbing the problem.