Stossel's "Myths, Lies and Nasty Behavior"

Here's my latest list of things you may have been led to believe are true -- but aren't. I'm also including some nasty behaviors that are more than just annoying, they cost us all money.

I hope this will give you a different perspective about your money, your neighbors and your politicians.

No. 10 -- NASTY BEHAVIOR -- Littering

People don't like what littering does to their neighborhoods, but they keep doing it. And it's not only annoying. It costs taxpayers money.

One county put hidden cameras in the woods to capture litterers. We looked at some of the tape and saw people dumping all sorts of trash -- an old television, a VCR, a kid's bike, a lawnmower.

One man threw out what looked like a bag of garbage. It turned out to be a bag filled with puppies. We don't know what happened to the puppies. The surveillance camera never captured that.

The camera's purpose, of course, is to catch the litterers. If the camera records the license plate, prosecutors summon them to court. The man who abandoned the puppies pleaded guilty to animal neglect and littering -- his sentence? Just probation, because he's ill.

A dad and daughter who dumped garbage more than 20 times at a creek were ordered to pay $500 and pick up six tons of garbage. But lots of other litterers are never identified and go unpunished.

The prosecutions are a small step in the endless battle against these inconsiderate people. One look at the beautiful Saluda River in Columbia, S.C, will give you an idea of how many battles remain to be fought.

The river is used by fishermen, kayakers and swimmers. But litter is everywhere.

"It drives me crazy 'cause this is a beautiful place, and these are class four and five rapids. And it's just gorgeous," said Dudlen Britt of the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.

Sometimes the officers watch and catch people. They caught jerks throwing beer cans toward their friends on an island in the river. Once it's clear they've left the beer cans behind and swum back to meet their friends, the officers move in.

Britt told them to go back and pick up the cans and appear in court.

In court, they told the judge they were going to go back and pick up everything that they had left behind.

Sure they were. They were amateurs. But there are professional litterers too. People who dump for a living -- for businesses looking to cut their disposal costs.

It costs real money to dump commercial garbage at a licensed dump. And you need permits to dispose of tires and other hazardous stuff. So, some people just pour sewage into ravines or dump carpet cleaning fluid into storm sewers.

In Columbus, Ohio, cops ran a sting to catch some professional dumpers. They advertised for haulers to take away a pile of garbage. Two men agreed to cart it off for $80.

Instead of driving to the local landfill, the litterers just stopped at a low-income apartment complex and put the garbage in and around the project's trash bin. "The illegal dumpers, they're here constantly, almost everyday," said James Youngblood an apartment manager at the complex.

This time, however, the sheriffs were watching. They made the dumpers load all the garbage back into their truck, and take it to a licensed landfill. One of the men was fined $360 and sentenced to community service. They're still searching for his partner.

So watch out, you might be caught. But the sad truth is that most people get away with it.

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