Being a two-year old in a police state means getting a $75 ticket in the mail for littering. After an envelope with the two-year old’s name on it was found in a back alley, police found it necessary to send a citation by mail to the name and address found on it, despite knowing how it came to be there. This is the result of DC’s get tough on littering program, which began new littering enforcement in 2014. While it was sold as a way to clean up the city streets, many opponents state it is a simple financial extortion on behalf of DC’s council.
Harper Westover is a two-year old who resides off West Virginia Ave, in Washington DC. For one reason or another, an envelope containing her name and information ended up on the ground in an alley. The alley happened to be behind her home, but that didn’t seem to matter to the officer who issued the ticket. The issuing of the citation appears to be in violation of the new rules set forth, rules that are currently available on the DC Metro Police littering enforcement website. According to the DC.gov webpage, “If an officer sees you dropping garbage, trash, debris, or any other kind of discarded material on public space, in waterways, or on someone else’s private property, you may receive a $75 Notice of Violation for littering.” Well, obviously the issuing officer didn’t actually see anyone drop the envelope, or he would have known that issuing a ticket to a two-year-old was a waste of taxpayer’s money and everyone’s time.
Critics of DC’s heavy littering enforcement has drawn much criticism, and cases like Harper’s exemplify the problem. Under the enforcement expansion, a $75 fine can become an arrest warrant if you fail to pay or miss a court date. This is exactly the type of program that traps poor communities into a cycle of debt and imprisonment. Programs like this should be seen for what they are and abandoned as a fundamental part of the problem. Officials claim that the law is meant to hold individuals accountable and the penalties need to be harsh, in order to be effective. They fail to realize, however, that the increased enforcement will not ultimately change people’s behavior and will ultimately result in the all too familiar cycle of incarceration.
Despite the circumstances, Harper’s parents’ initial attempts to get the citation dismissed were met with disbelief . “She told me they’d be willing to withdraw the ticket or dismiss it, or whatever word you’d like to use, if I could prove to them that Harper was only 2,” Harper’s mother told the media.
They were shocked that they had to send over a copy of the girl’s birth certificate to prove her age. Thankfully, once the news of the citation hit the media, the Department of Public Works conducted an investigation and dismissed the citation. “I heard that it was a 2-year-old illegal dumper, so I’m like wow, really? I apologized to them for the mistake… it shouldn’t have gotten this far. Someone should have come… and we do what we need to do,” stated Andre Lee of the Department of Public Works.