City police to focus on snuffing cigarette butts being thrown out

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 18, 2003

[04/18/03] Throwing cigarette butts out car windows could land Vicksburg motorists in jail, Vicksburg Police Chief Tommy Moffett said Thursday.

In addition to the litter laws that make tossing a cigarette butt on the ground a misdemeanor offense subject to arrest and a $200 fine, Moffett said patrol officers will also ratchet up enforcement of the city’s noise ordinance and parking laws.

“I have informed officers not to give warnings any more, but to strictly enforce these,” he said during the filming of the city’s weekly television program “Speak Up.”

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Under state law, cigarette butts are not only considered litter, but are deemed hazardous and are blamed for causing many grass fires during dry, summer months. Mayor Laurence Leyens, who has made cleaning up the city a priority of the city administration, also said cigarette butts are a major contributor to litter on the streets.

“We’ve very serious. This isn’t just good talk anymore,” Leyens said.

City officials all agreed that the police department needed to take a tougher stand to enforce the city’s four-year-old noise ordinance, but North Ward Alderman Gertrude Young said the city was moving too fast.

“People get so much stuff shoved down their throats because we say it’s right,” Young said. “Mayor, you’re just taking this to an extreme.”

Young said that people have been tossing out cigarette butts for years and that since the city has not been ticketing people up until now, warnings should come first.

“We’ve got to have common sense. People are tired because every time they turn around they have to do this or get this trash can or do that,” she said.

Although normally people do not get arrested for littering or violation of the law against booming noise from their vehicles, Moffett said that any law that is not specifically a moving violation can result in an arrest. In other words, violators could be made to post bond.

Under the city’s noise ordinance, a first offense is punishable with a $216 fine, second offense a $432 fine, third offense a $600 fine and up to 30 days in jail, and any subsequent offense a $1,000 fine and up to 90 days in jail.

“We’re going to be totally unforgiving,” Moffett said.

Misuse of parking spaces for the handicapped and parking on sidewalks or in red-coded fire lanes will also result in citations, he said. Vicksburg’s minimum fine for illegal parking in a blue zone is $100.