Savannah man could be forced to pay for someone else’s mess

Updated: Apr. 7, 2021 at 6:35 PM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Illegal dumping is a problem in Savannah. It’s not something you think about until you can see it around town or even worse, in your own backyard.

That happened to one man in Savannah. He had about 30 tires dumped on his property.

A neighbor saw who did it and reported it to police. But now the property owner is being told to clean up the mess or pay a fine.

The trouble began when his neighbor reported the illegal dumping to police. It’s led to confusion over which city department will investigate it and left the property owner caught in the middle.

Odell Caine is retired military. And the civilian life has been an adjustment.

“It’s different for me, but you know, in the military world if someone does something wrong there are consequences,” Caine said.

And now he has found himself fighting City Hall.

“It’s just ridiculous,” he said.

It started two weeks ago when someone dumped these tires on his property off Mildred Street.

“I had a cable running along here to secure the property along with poles up. They took the poles up, took the cable down and came in and dumped the tires.”

Lucky for him, his neighbor saw the whole thing and confronted the people dumping.

“He asked why would y’all dump the tires on the property because he knows me personally. They dropped the tires and just drove off.”

His neighbor called him and Savannah Police to make a report.

“Identified the truck and the people pointed them out and he was assuming as I would that they would go down there and investigate.”

Instead, police told him, “Mr. Caine this is not a police matter, this is a code enforcement situation. He said he would get with code enforcement.”

Two days later, Caine received this letter in the mail that said he was responsible for cleaning up the tires.

“They took photos as if I don’t know what the property looks like.”

So, we talked to Savannah’s Code Compliance director Kevin Milton about illegal dumping.

“This is a problem we have all over Savannah. People illegal dump on people’s property quite frequently and unfortunately for us and police, for that matter, unless we catch the person responsible, we cannot do anything,” Savannah Code Compliance Director Kevin Milton said.

In this case there is a suspect that has been identified, according to the report.

“Based on the police report, it’s up to police to run down these suspects and take the case to court. For us, we deal with properties almost exclusively,” Milton said. Savannah Police declined to go on camera, but sent this statement, which read in part, “illegal dumping and fence damage were civil issues.”

“SPD was not aware that citations had been issued to Mr. Caine until being notified by the media. SPD has since reached out to Code Enforcement to reiterate that the owner of the property was a victim in this case and recommend that the citation be dropped.”

Code Compliance has not dropped the case.

So, does Caine have to go to court now?

“If he decides not to clean the tires up, yes,” Milton said.

It is something Caine is trying to sort out.

“I have 15 days to move these tires out of my own pocket and I have to figure out where to take them because I don’t know of any other area. But according to the law I should go dump them in someone else’s yard because the legal system is not doing anything,” Caine said.

“I’m going to just fight this case until the end until something is done.”

After not getting a clear answer, WTOC contacted the City Manager’s office. Assistant City Manager Heath Lloyd was asked who is actually responsible for investigating illegal dumping?

Despite what police said, the assistant city manager says police are responsible for investigating, and code enforcement are only involved because the property needs to be cleaned. He emphasized that they are two separate cases.

He also said the city will work with Caine and extend his deadline to clean up the tires.

Shortly after the original WTOC report aired, a concerned citizen called WTOC who wanted to do something about it.

Amber Greene offered to remove the tires from Caine’s property on Wednesday evening.

After the Greene and Caine communicated, she went to his property to load some of the tires. She was able to help remove 15 tires.

“It’s not right what happened,” Greene said. " I wanted to help someone.”

It’s going to take several trips to clean up Caine’s property. There are 46 total tires - some very large.

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