Police and other first responders in Southwest Florida have some new sets of eyes to help monitor for trouble in the community. About 200 drivers for Waste Management in Collier and Charlotte Counties received training in the company's "Waste Watch" community safety program this week.
"Because our job is collecting trash and recycling daily from local neighborhoods and businesses, we are a useful resource to identify suspicious activity, or serve as a preventative measure that may keep a minor mishap from turning into a dangerous situation," said Larry Berg, Senior District Manager for Waste Management of Collier County.
The Waste Watch program began in Collier County in 2010. Now, all garbage collection trucks are equipped with cameras to record accidents.
Thursday morning, about 120 drivers in Collier County received training on staying alert and reporting anything suspicious.
"Smoke, fire, or suspicious activity such as people lurking around," explained Stephanie Kissinger of Waste Management. "Believe it or not, even though it's a big garbage truck, it's relatively unobtrusive and we're kind of invisible."
Collier County Sheriff Kevin Rambosk is a fan of the program. He said that it has already paid off over the years, including one instance in Marco Island on March 3, 2011. Two Waste Management drivers jumped into action when they saw a woman who was walking her dog get attacked by another dog on the loose.
"They were able to get the other dog off of the woman, secure the dog, call 911, and have law enforcement and medical respond immediately," Rambosk said.
"When they see something going on, they say something and they call 911," Rambosk added. "That makes a difference in our community."
In addition to the 120 drivers trained in Collier County Thursday morning, about 80 Waste Management drivers were trained in the Waste Watch program earlier in the week.