Operation Loose Wire to focus on illegal dumping, livestock abuse

The Highlands County Sheriff’s Office is taking part in the Florida Sheriff’s Association’s Operation Loose Wire this month, focusing on livestock neglect/abuse and illegal dumping.

The goal of the month-long operation is to focus on reducing the number of livestock at large and neglect cases, along with locating and prosecuting individuals who are illegally dumping waste material.

The HCSO is spending the opening weeks of the operation by increasing its focus on illegal dumping. Deputies will be proactively looking for those who are illegally leaving trash (and yard waste) in unapproved areas, as well as looking for illegal dump sites. Those caught illegally dumping trash can face penalties ranging from a fine to a prison term, depending on the severity of the offense.

“Illegal dumping is a huge problem in our county,” Sheriff Paul Blackman said. “We deal with more than 30 calls a month related to illegal dumping and have a deputy who is assigned specifically to this type of complaint. We also send out inmate work crews all over the county to clean up illegal dump sites that have been located.”

County landfill records show the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office, through inmate work details and deputy cleanups, has brought in 53.22 tons of illegally dumped trash to the facility so far in 2021, following 40.4 tons logged in 2020 and 81.24 in 2019.

That is 174.86 tons in 31 months for an average of 6.47 tons a month of illegally dumped items collected just by the HCSO. The total collected by the HCSO as well as Road and Bridge and residents over the same period is 278.59 tons, or 8.99 tons a month.

Deputies will also be watching for uncovered loads on the roads leading to not only the county landfill, but also the private disposal sites in the county. Those found with uncovered loads can expect a ticket and a fine.

If you see someone illegally dumping trash, please call 863-402-7200. Tips can also be left via the HCSO smartphone app.