Trash haulers soon will be helping Elk Grove Village first responders spot residential emergencies.
The village is partnering with Waste Management to train garbage truck drivers to be on alert for crime and emergencies, widening public safety surveillance in the community.
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"It's another set of eyes watching the community," Elk Grove Mayor Craig Johnson said. "Mailmen have done this for years. They (waste haulers) do the same blocks, same homes every week, so they are familiar with the area and the people."
A Waste Management driver may stop at as many as 1,000 homes in a day on a residential collection route, according to the company.
Waste Management's WasteWatch community safety program has been successful in a few other communities in the area, Johnson said. Buffalo Grove began participating in the program in January and North Aurora launched it in February, making them among more than 100 communities nationwide taking part in WasteWatch.
The program, developed in 2004, calls on garbage collectors to help local police and emergency services agencies by reporting suspicious activity and emergency situations. Drivers are equipped with radios and mobile phones to inform authorities if they see anything unusual.
"Drivers in Waste Management's WasteWatch program are trained to observe and report only, and do not act as law officers or emergency personnel," Anthony Farneti, Waste Management's Midwest director of security, said in a news release. "After completing the training, our drivers know better what to look for and how to communicate any situations to local police and emergency responders."
Roughly 15 Waste Management drivers and route supervisors are receiving training from village police. Waste Management has provided refuse and recycling collection services for the roughly 33,000-resident community for more than 20 years. Residential collection services are provided Monday through Friday.
"They are in training right now," Johnson said. "They are trained to look for specific things that's outside the ordinary for what they normally see there. We think it's phenomenal. We're very grateful for Waste Management doing this. Our community will be better for it."