Unkempt neighborhoods in St. Louis, Missouri drive down real estate values, discourage investment in the city, and are generally bad for the economy. Daycare employees find used hypodermic needles in piles of trash behind their workplace. And, of course, there is also the issue of environmental racism at play in St. Louis, in which, according to WashU researcher, Joseph Goeke Frank, the percentage of Black residents in a neighborhood is the single strongest predictor of illegal trash dumping response time. In his dissertation, which controlled for variables such as “indicators of political influence, socio-economic status, and housing conditions,” Frank found that for each 1% increase in a neighborhood’s Black population, response time would decrease by half a day. The prevalence of illegal dumping is also much higher north of the infamous Delmar Boulevard, leaving Black neighborhoods more susceptible to having their communities polluted in the first place.
Missouri’s second-largest city is facing an ecological (and social) crisis of epic proportions — a rampant increase in illegal trash dumping is in turn creating broader issues for communities inhabiting St. LouisTL. Despite being a crime punishable by law that is enforced by the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department’s Environmental Investigations Unit, the practice only continues to grow with no end in sight, especially in areas with higher African-American populations like North County.
Erica Williams, founder and executive director of A Red Circle, created a project on Magnify to encourage local residents to pitch in to the fight against illegal trash dumping. The project, titled Collaborate to Stop Illegal Dumping in North County and available at https://www.magnifyyourvoice.com/reportillegaldumping, hopes to encourage residents of St. Louis to take a picture of any illegal trash they see in North County and upload it to the project’s comment section with the goal of eventually using the data to map where dumping is happening in the community.
While Williams was pursuing her doctorate in public policy, one class assignment required her to create a mock non-profit, complete with a mission statement, a vision statement, a five-year strategic plan, finances, and more. Working full-time as a paralegal in Clayton at the time, Williams thought “I can actually … do this … in my spare time,” and thus, the organization was born. Williams founded A Red Circle in the hopes of bringing the residents of North County together to address issues facing the community, such as food deserts, job opportunities, and now — illegal trash dumping.
While the problem is a phenomenon growing in prevalence across the broader St. Louis area, trash dumping is particularly problematic in North County, as efforts made by the city of St. Louis to curb the act have been largely neglected in the predominantly Black area. When reached out to by Magnify interns, a representative of St. Louis’ Citizens Service Bureau (the authority St. LouisSTL residents can report illegal trash dumping to) said the city does not track reports in North County, but those concerned were welcome to call St. Louis County for “County info on reporting/tracking.”
Since North County is not within the CSB’s jurisdiction, trash dumping can only be reported to the representatives such as the mayor and city council person; — there is no central authority, so there is no way to track data analytics and reports in the more white, more affluent city of St. Louis proper. A Red Circle, earthday365, and various citizens have teamed up together in attempts to find solutions to the problem, such as A Red Circle’s project on Magnify, hoping to create a trash dumping map.
A Red Circle’s name is a tribute to the interconnection of societal issues and humanity, as all blood is red. The organization’s mission statement, as listed on its website, is “The holistic betterment of our community; reversing the effects of racism one person and cause at a time.” Like Magnify, A Red Circle seeks to change the world one action (or click) at a time.
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