Governor Rick Scott has proclaimed April 16-20, 2012, as Florida’s 11th Annual Environmental Crime Prevention Week to increase awareness of environmental crimes and stress the importance of reporting unlawful activities to the proper authorities.
“Environmental Crime Prevention Week is a great opportunity for Floridians to learn more about environmental crimes, including tips to recognize and prevent potential violations,” said Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Division of Law Enforcement Assistant Director Greg Gibson. “Environmental crime prevention is important to not only ensuring the safety of Floridians and visitors, but to protecting Florida’s natural resources, such as our waterbodies.”
Environmental crimes are violations of state or federal environmental laws that could impact public health and the environment, such as illegal dumping or improper disposal of used oil. Because illegal dumping can contaminate underlying aquifers, which are the source for more than 90 percent of the state’s drinking water supply, illegal solid and hazardous waste disposal is a primary focus of the Division of Law Enforcement.
In 2011, the DEP Division of Law Enforcement investigated more than 800 criminal complaints and responded to nearly 1,700 emergency response incidents involving the release of oil or hazardous materials. Many of the responses and investigations were the results of citizen reports.
Starting July 1, DEP’s Division of Law Enforcement will transfer to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission after Governor Scott signed House Bill 1383 into law April 6. The consolidation of patrol efforts on state lands and in state parks will benefit Florida’s citizens by increasing the number of officers available to respond to calls for service at any given time. Also, those calls will be better prioritized based on the closest officer available to respond.
“This week, we’re highlighting the importance of protecting our valuable natural resources,” said Col. Jim Brown, Director of FWC’s Division of Law Enforcement. “The FWC is looking forward to integrating DEP’s law enforcement officers into our agency to provide even better environmental and conservation service to the State of Florida.”
DEP and FWC encourage Floridians to be aware of the signs of environmental crimes, including:
-Corroded, leaking or abandoned waste containers.
-Illegal debris dumping in a natural area.
-Foul smelling, unsightly discharges.
-Visible sheens on the ground or water body.
Citizens should report potential environmental crimes to DEP and FWC’s Divisions of Law Enforcement for investigation and enforcement action. To report an environmental crime, wireless customers can dial #DEP. Citizens can also report environmental crimes to the State Warning Point by calling (877) 2-SAVE-FL (1.877.272.8335). General environmental inquiries should be directed to DEP district offices during normal business hours.
DEP’s Division of Law Enforcement is responsible for statewide environmental resource law enforcement, as well as providing law enforcement services to Florida’s state parks and greenways and trails. Division personnel from the three operational bureaus patrol state lands, investigate environmental resource crimes and respond to natural disasters, civil unrest, hazardous material incidents and oil spills that threaten the environment.