Waste Management trains garbage truck drivers to keep watch along routes
Wed., Aug. 3, 2016
Matt Dagon has been driving a garbage truck for Waste Management for 10 years. He’s helped push cars out of snow drifts and been asked to look for people’s dogs. He knows his regular route well – and that’s probably why he noticed a woman slumped over on her front steps with the door still open behind her.
“I went over and covered her with my coat and yelled in the house for help,” Dagon said. A family member was there and came running. “I’m not sure what happened to her. But she came in some weeks later and thanked me for saving her life.”
Sanitary engineers are often the first to drive through a neighborhood in the morning, and they see a little bit of everything. On Tuesday, about 60 drivers from Waste Management sat through an hour of training for a program called Waste Watch, which encourages drivers to become like a block watch on wheels.
“If you feel like something looks out of the ordinary, it probably is,” said Kris Spilsbury, Waste Management director of security. “Call law enforcement and let them determine what needs to be done.”
Dagon said he definitely notices people’s habits.
“I see who’s moving and which cars are parked where,” Dagon said. “I’ve called the cops a few times.”
Spilsbury said Waste Management drivers shouldn’t get involved in resolving a problem like a fight in a park or attempt a rescue from a burning building, but they also shouldn’t hesitate to call law enforcement.
“Don’t question people. Don’t try to detain people,” Spilsbury said. “Your first responsibility is always to return home safely to your own family.”
Spokane Valley Deputy Chris Johnston and Liberty Lake police Officer Mike Thomas helped with the training.
“It’s OK to call us. Don’t ever feel like you are bothering us,” said Johnston, who’s part of the Sheriff’s Office’s crime prevention unit. “We get paid to do this.”
Johnston said burglars, package thieves and car prowlers are most active during the day when everyone else is at work.
Thomas said drivers shouldn’t be discouraged if dispatch asks them to call Crime Check instead of sending patrol officers right away.
“If it takes a while before we get there, don’t look at that as we don’t care,” Thomas said. “We have to prioritize calls all the time. And we do care.”
Thomas said a quick photo snapped with a cellphone can be enormously helpful to law enforcement.
And he told drivers to be aware that burglars are likely to be armed.
“If they don’t have a gun, they may be in the process of stealing a gun,” Thomas said. “You must consider your own safety.”
Waste Management is a national company with a local office in Spokane Valley. Its 60 drivers pick up garbage in parts of Spokane Valley, Liberty Lake, Airway Heights and Deer Park.
“We hope our drivers can become an extra set of eyes and ears in the community,” said Tami Yager, public-sector service manager for Waste Management.
Part of Tuesday’s training also dealt with terrorism.
Spilsbury said drivers should report people who pay unusual attention to their trucks or measure garbage dumpsters, and he warned them that terrorists can’t be easily identified.
“They come in all shapes and colors,” Spilsbury said.
Dagon said the talk about terrorism was his biggest takeaway from the training.
“You can’t ignore that,” Dagon said.
He added that as a Waste Management driver he’s already taken extensive driver training, and the Waste Watch program just makes sense.
“We work where we live,” Dagon said. “We have to take good care of our neighborhoods.”
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