Social media helps deputies track down illegal dumper

HEMET — A Hemet man trying to save a few dollars worth of dump fees is facing an entire community’s scrutiny, anger, and frustration, after cell phone footage of him dumping an entire trailer load of building and construction waste material was posted to social media.

The short, 24-second video quickly led to the man’s identification and the illegal dumper is now being held accountable. He was not only forced to return to clean up his mess – which was so large it required the use of a Bobcat – he now faces fines and fees, not to mention the potential for lost wages if he faces court proceedings over the incident.

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Deputies assigned to Hemet Sheriff’s Station were first alerted to the illegal dumping Friday, Dec. 14, after a man reported capturing cell phone footage of another man illegally dumping. The incident happened along a dirt extension of Santa Fe St., just east of Diamond Valley Golf Course, in an unincorporated area south of Hemet.

Cell phone footage of an illegal dumping led to a Hemet man returning to clean up his mess. Will Whelan/Hemet Valley Incidents photo

In addition to filing a report the person who captured the cell phone footage, who wishes to remain anonymous at this time, sent his short video to Will Whelan, founder of Facebook’s Hemet Valley Incidents.

During the video, the anonymous poster is holding his cell phone while running toward the illegal dumper. The video-taker can be heard yelling, “This’s not a dump site, dude,” as a man behind the wheel of a gold or tan pickup truck continues dumping a 30-foot trailer load of construction waste before racing away from the area.

Whelan shared the video with Hemet Valley Incidents‘ nearly 56,000 members and the tips and leads about a Hemet man and his local construction business immediately began pouring in.

With the video as evidence, deputies quickly tracked the man down and on Sunday ordered him to return to the scene of his crime and clean up the large mess; which consisted of dirt, tree branches, broken pieces of concrete, plaster, and other construction waste materials.

Faced with the video evidence of his misdeeds, the man had little choice but to comply and, just 48-hours after illegal dumping, returned to the location with his trailer and a Bobcat skid-steer loader.  Without admitting he was the man filmed dumping the refuse, a Hemet resident later posted photos of his cleanup process in the comments section of the original post that led to the dumper’s own front door.

“Social media is the new tool that helps bring the communities together and keep residents informed,” Whelan later said of his page’s followers’ participation and help in so quickly identifying the illegal dumper and holding him accountable for his actions.

“Before social media, criminals used to get away with a lot more crimes and citizens were basically left in the dark about what types of crimes are happening all around them, in their own communities,” said Whelan. “But now, there is a new and effective threat that we, the citizens, are able to use against the criminals, and it’s the power of social media.

“Now, all you have to do is get video or photographic evidence, turn it over to law enforcement and see if it’s okay to post on social media, and usually within a few days after posting on the internet, criminals are tracked down thanks to concerned citizens,” Whelan explained.

Asked what he would say to other people considering using the San Jacinto valley as their personal dumping grounds Whelan’s advice was simple, “Stop trashing our community. We’ll eventually catch you and we will not hesitate to make an example out of you.”

Click any image to open full-size gallery.

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Contact the writer: trevor.rcns@gmail.com

Trevor Montgomery, 47, moved last year to the Intermountain area of Shasta County from Riverside County and runs Riverside County News Source and Shasta County News Source. Additionally, he writes for several other news organizations; including Riverside County based newspapers, Valley News, The Valley Chronicle, and Anza Valley Outlook; as well as Bonsall/Fallbrook Village News in San Diego County and Mountain Echo in Shasta County.

Trevor spent 10 years in the U.S. Army as an Orthopedic Specialist before joining the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department in 1998. He was medically retired after losing his leg, breaking his back, and suffering both spinal cord and brain injuries in an off-duty accident. (Click here to see segment of Discovery Channel documentary of Trevor’s accident.)

During his time with the sheriff’s department, Trevor worked at several different stations; including Robert Presley Detention Center, Southwest Station in Temecula, Hemet/Valle Vista Station, Ben Clark Public Safety Training Center, and Lake Elsinore Station; along with other locations.

Trevor’s assignments included Corrections, Patrol, DUI Enforcement, Boat and Personal Water-Craft based Lake Patrol, Off-Road Vehicle Enforcement, Problem Oriented Policing Team, and Personnel/Background Investigations. He finished his career while working as a Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Investigator and was a court-designated expert in child abuse and child sex-related crimes.

Trevor has been married for more than 28 years and was a foster parent to more than 60 children over 13 years. He is now an adoptive parent and his “fluid family” includes 13 children and 15 – but soon to be 16 – grandchildren.

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