Mayor Jim Gray announced an anti-litter campaign Wednesday, urging citizens to pick up anything from cigarette butts to plastic milk jugs.
The campaign, "Pick it up, Lexington," embraces a three-prong approach of education, enforcement and prevention in an effort to reduce littering.
"We live in a great American city surrounded by some of the most beautiful countryside in the world," Gray said. "We can't tolerate trash on our streets and sidewalks. We won't tolerate trash in our streams."
At a news conference in city hall, Gray was joined by the Fayette County Sheriff's office, the Division of Police, the Keep Lexington Beautiful Commission, Bluegrass PRIDE and council member Peggy Henson in announcing several new initiatives to increase awareness of the problem.
Littering is both an aesthetic issue and a water-quality issue, Henson said.
"Everything that is left on our streets goes into our streams, affecting our water quality — litter, cigarette butts, leaves, grass clippings, motor oil and pet waste," Henson said. "Instead of saying, 'pick it up,' let's say, 'Don't throw it down.'"
Lexington police have a new tool in the anti-litter campaign, Lt. Mark Brand said. Under a change in state law last year, officers who see a person littering can issue civil citations that carry fines of as much as $500 for each violation.
Before that, the only option available to police officers was to ticket a person under very specific circumstances, Brand said. For example, police could ticket if they saw someone throw litter onto a roadway or into a body of water.
"Now we have a broad range of littering activities that we can cite for," Brand said.
While the law change expands their reach, Brand said the goal is not to write tickets, "but to provide a clean and safe environment for Lexington citizens and visitors to enjoy."
Gray said residents can report littering when they see trash thrown from a vehicle by filling out a report from Lexingtonky.gov/litterreport.
The information will be forwarded to the Fayette County Sheriff's office, which will run a vehicle registration check and send a note telling the owner that someone in that car was spotted littering.
Sheriff Kathy Witt called it "a great attention-getter. It also informs our community that, had law enforcement noticed that (littering), they could be subject to civil citation or even the criminal citation, which is a Class A misdemeanor and a fine of up to $500."
Also, Community Corrections will reactivate a program to allow supervised, non-violent inmates to pick up litter from city streets, Gray said.
Keep Lexington Beautiful Commission members will be at city-sponsored events throughout the spring and summer with educational material about litter prevention. They will start with this weekend's St. Patrick's Day Parade. They also will be at Thursday Night Live and the farmers' market on Saturdays.
WANT TO HELP?
To learn how to become involved with the Great American Cleanup, Keep Lexington Beautiful and other litter programs, call (859) 425-2255 or go to Keeplexingtonbeautiful.com.