It almost sounds like something a bad ‘B’ rated movie would consist of: Garbage men working for Waste Management on the lookout for anarchists, terrorists and just any old criminal that might end up in their sights. If you thought Rutger Hauer (No offense to Rutger Hauer, as he was king of the ‘B’ movies) was going to be the star of this coming attraction you would be wrong. This is actually taking place.
The Houston-based company’s “Waste Watch” community safety program, which trains their drivers to be on the lookout for suspicious activity and document it, debuted a local version of it’s 2004 program on Tuesday.
“Don’t get involved,” said the narrator on a training video. “Your job is to observe and report.”
Tampa authorities are hopeful it will be helpful as the program hits the area just before the Republican National Convention in August.
Tampa police Capt. Bret Bartlett is one of the officials teamed up with Waste Management’s program and he believes there will not only be protesters at the convention, but also anarchists and others. He encouraged the garbage men, “Nobody knows your neighborhood like you do. You know what’s supposed to be there and what’s not supposed to be there.”
According to the Tampa Bay Times,
Drivers watched a 14-minute video and learned that as a major corporation, Waste Management itself could be a terrorist target. They saw re-enactments of odd activities — like a man taking photographs of a garbage truck — and were told to keep an eye on anyone “taking an undue interest in our bins.”
The training video was culturally sensitive, showing an image of a young white woman who was a suicide bomber, a young Middle Eastern man who was a victim. “How can you recognize a terrorist when you see one?” the narrator asked. “You can’t.”
The basic upshot of the training was this: Don’t get involved — “You’re not police officers,” the narrator said — but don’t be afraid to call authorities, either.
While I think it’s a good thing that these guys look out for the neighborhoods they are in, isn’t some of this just common sense? Do garbage men actually need to be trained to spy out neighborhoods? Surely, if they saw something suspicious enough that they thought it was serious they would report it.
The TBT suggests that the program has been effective, even citing a couple of incidents:
In other Florida counties, the Waste Watch program has been cited for helping law enforcement and other emergency officials. In Miami-Dade, a driver spotted smoke coming out of a building where a man was sleeping inside. Another driver in Orange County caught two men stealing a gaming system from a sorority house and called police.
The obvious question though should be that if these garbage men had not been trained would they have just seen smoke coming from a building and not done anything? Probably not. I’m sure they would have reported it just the same. I think the second incident would have been handled in the same fashion.
But not to worry, your garbage men are here to save the day.