Surveillance cameras on garbage trucks? I had no idea

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By Travis Mayfield

I admit it, it was an absolute ‘get off my lawn’ moment when I wrote it.

But I stand by my complaint that my garbage collectors were missing trash in my bin week after week.

Now I stand vindicated and it’s thanks to a fact I didn’t know. My garbage hauler, CleanScapes, has video cameras on its collection trucks.

In fact, CleanScapes Community and Government Affairs Manager John Taylor tells me they have five to seven cameras on every one of their trucks in Seattle.

“We have them front, rear, both sides and inside the cabin,” explained Taylor.

When Seattle Public Utilities saw my tweet last week complaining about the five weeks in a row garbage had remained in our bin, one of their folks called CleanScapes.

Taylor called me earlier this week and promised he would check it out.

Yesterday he called back to tell me he had reviewed the previous three weeks of tapes from the truck that serves my neighborhood.

“We code our tapes to addresses,” said Taylor.

In went my address and up came the proof.

“Our crew wasn’t following standard operating procedure,” said Taylor.

CleanScapes policy is to physically grab the entire trash bin and dump it into the back of the truck.

But Taylor said it turns out the tapes revealed our garbage hauler was only grabbing the bag from our bin and leaving everything underneath that untouched.

“We used this as a learning opportunity for our drivers,” said Taylor. 

The cameras are used in situations like mine, but they serve several other purposes too. Taylor told me they can check and see after someone complains of a completely missed pickup. He also said they can use the footage when a driver gets into an accident out on a route.

“We even helped convict a drunk driver,” said Taylor. Footage caught by a CleanScapes truck of a motorcycle crash was shown in court.

“It’s pretty dramatic footage if you slow it down frame by frame,” said Taylor. “You can see the motorcycle flip over.”

Nothing so dramatic in my situation, still it was nice to return home last night after our scheduled garbage day to see our bin completely empty of refuse.

“We told our drivers to treat every house as if it was the mayor’s house or a KOMO News reporter’s house,” said Taylor.

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