Reporting Jason Allen
FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) - That glowing cigarette butt flying out the car window might be a dangerous thing during a statewide drought. But CBS 11 News learned that few area law enforcement officers are doing anything extra to go after offenders.
The Texas Department of Transportation spent $147,000 on 24 billboards throughout the state this summer, urging residents not to use Texas as their ashtray. But 11 different law enforcement offices told CBS 11 News that they have not stepped up efforts to watch for cigarette littering, or to write up citations for those who are caught in the act.
The citations can reach up to $500 if the cigarette starts a fire.
Butt-tossing offenders may also get a letter and a trash bag from TxDOT, telling them that someone anonymously reported their dangerous actions to the state’s ‘Report a Litterer’ program. Created in 1994, the program sends out about 1,500 letters each month.
A manager with TxDOT told CBS 11 News that the program is focused on preventing any littering before it happens, rather than ensuring that litterers are ticketed by law officers.
Several law enforcement officials said that littering is a difficult ticket to enforce, because offenders must be caught in the act. And most people will not litter when a marked police car is nearby. Plus, at highway speeds, cigarette butt tossing is hard to see.
The number of cigarette butts found on the side of Texas roads has increased 42 percent since 2005. Although, the number of fires started by those butts is only 1.25 percent.
TxDOT is also working with grassroots partner Keep Texas Beautiful to see if there could be a sponsorship program that would provide ashtrays for vehicles, in hopes of stopping people from throwing their cigarette butts out of windows.
You can report a litterer at www.dontmesswithtexas.org