Hampton's Litter Index Report: 2011

2011 Litter Index VolunteersAnnual Community Appearance & Litter Index

The Hampton Clean City Commission conducts an annual index of perceivable litter, abandoned vehicles, graffiti, illegal signs, and outdoor storage to evaluate the general appearance of our community. Volunteers conduct the survey, following training, and evaluate 57 sites throughout the city, which have been evaluated for litter on an ongoing basis since 2000. Indices for the other factors have been evaluated since 2009.

This index allows us to keep a finger on the pulse of our city's quality of life as measured through these data points, and to plan programs, projects, and educational efforts accordingly.

Hampton residents and workers play an important role in maintaining our city's quality of life. Here are some ways you can help keep Hampton clean and beautiful.


Generally, the most littered areas are highway interchanges, major roadways, and isolated roads. The volunteers who conduct the index also observe illegally dump sites, including tire piles.

Here are six actions Hamptonians can take to prevent and reduce litter:
  • Always put trash in a trash container - never litter. Use a car litter bag or any bag to get the trash you generate while driving back to a trash can. Smokers can use portable ashtrays, reuse metal cans, or otherwise be creative to keep their cigarette debris from becoming litter.
  • If you see a truck with trash or other debris falling from it, and can safely do so, get identifying information from the truck (the truck number or license plate number) and call the company who owns it. Often the number to call will be on the side of the truck. Report the problem and let the company know that litter hurts our community.
  • Make sure you always tie your garbage bags securely so the garbage stays in the bag until it is disposed of properly.
  • Recycle all the paper, cans, bottles and jugs that you can through the city recycling program. Remember, only PETE (polyethylene terephthalate) and HDPE (high-density polyethylene) plastic bottle and jugs (look on the bottom of the container for the recycling triangle with a 1 or 2 inside) can be recycled in Hampton's curbside recycling program. Residents of multi-family housing and workers at businesses should encourage the management of those facilities to contact local business recycling and waste management companies to explore the many options available for recycling.
  • Residents and businesses, pick up all the litter on your grounds and public areas that lay next to your grounds, including sidewalks and easements. If everyone did that, our neighborhoods and business districts would never have a less-than-perfect litter index score.
  • If you see illegal dumping in action, call the Hampton non-emergency police number at 727-6111 to report the incident, providing as much information as possible, including the license plate number, the description of the vehicle, the description of the people involved, time, location, and landmarks.

Abandoned Vehicles

On the surface, abandoned vehicles may not seem like a major problem, but consider this information from the Center for Problem-Oriented Policing:
  • Abandoned vehicles attract vandals
  • Abandoned vehicles can be used for drug drops, prostitution, and homeless sheltering
  • Parts of abandoned vehicles may contain hazardous automotive fluids that present a hazard to humans and the environment
  • Abandoned vehicles lend a derelict appearance to the neighborhoods or business areas that they are parked in, reducing property values
  • Abandoned vehicles attract children, who can be harmed in many ways, including being injured by deteriorating car parts, poisoning from chemicals in the car, and being stuck in locked cars or trunks
Here is what you can do to help:
  • Report suspected abandoned vehicles to the non-emergency police number, 727-6111. Good clues include: the vehicle hasn't moved in a long time, grass is growing up around it, the vehicle shows signs of vandalism, there's road debris under and around the car because the street sweeper hasn't been able to get to that area.
  • If you have a car that you want to store on your property make sure it is well-serviced before storage, including having tires properly inflated, lock the doors, cover the car. More steps are listed at Wikihow.com. Please do not store your car on the street.


According to Graffiti Hurts, graffiti can be words, pictures, or shapes, and can be found on almost any surface, including fences, signs, utility boxes, and desks. The key points are that it is there without permission and it is illegal.
  • Graffiti signals a lack of community caring that encourages other anti-social behavior.
  • Graffiti can be a sign of gang activity, so people feel less safe when they see graffiti.
  • Graffiti can also be considered a hate crime in some circumstances.
  • Not all graffiti is gang- or hate-related, but it is all illegal if it's there without your permission.
  • Graffiti removal is the responsibility of the property owner. If a minor puts graffiti on public property and is caught, his or her parents or legal guardians could be charged for the cleanup cost.
  • It costs quite a bit to get rid of graffiti, so it drains personal, business, and government budgets.
Here is what you can do to help:
  • If you find graffiti on your property, get it off or cover it up as quickly as possible. The sooner you get it off, the stronger your signal that graffiti is NOT OK with you!
  • Report graffiti not on your property immediately via Hampton's Customer Call Center 311. If the Call Center finds that your report covers an area that is not city property, they will let you know which agency to call (for example, Virginia Dominion Power, Hampton City Schools, or other).
  • Plant shrubs, flowers, and other landscaping in the areas where graffiti strikes. This deters vandalism in general and makes it more difficult for graffiti perpetrators to access the site. Motion sensor lighting can also deter vandalism.
  • If you find graffiti that is particularly offensive, is hate-directed, or you suspect is gang-related, contact the Hampton police at their non-emergency number, 727-6111.
  • Additional tips are available at Graffiti Hurts.

Illegal Signs

According to Keep America Beautiful, illegal signs, which include signs or flyers on utility poles or on stakes at roadside, are visual litter, creating a cluttered, distracting environment for drivers and pedestrians. They can create traffic hazards when people pay too much attention to them. They interfere with roadside maintenance operations like mowing, and are typically removed because they are illegal, so they add cost to routine roadside operations.

Here is what you can do to help:
  • Report illegal signs by contacting the Hampton 311 Customer Call Center - call 311 from your home landline or 727-8311 from your cell phone, or go online to report the signs. PLEASE do not report while you are driving!
  • NEVER respond to these roadside ads. Think of them as computer spam, more likely to be harmful than useful.
  • If someone places one of these signs in your yard or in front of your house without your permission, feel free to remove and dispose of them.

Outdoor Storage

According to Keep America Beautiful:
Keeping any goods, material, merchandise, or equipment outside a building or on a lot
creates unsightly conditions and may provide breeding grounds for rats and mosquitoes as
well as the diseases they carry. Items and personal property, including but not limited to,
building materials, furniture, appliances, motor vehicle parts or other materials not
customarily used or stored outside or which may deteriorate from exposure to the outside
environment. Outside Storage may include trash and garbage stored outside prior to or
after normal collection. In many communities outside storage is referred to as “open
storage.” When visible from the public street, items stored outside give the impression that
no one cares about the area, there may be a lack of ownership in the neighborhood, and
there is a lack of community pride. Removal or screening so that materials are not visible
from the public street is a key to improving a community’s appearance.

Keep your neighborhood neat and attractive is a great way to discourage crime, vandalism, and decreased property values. Discussing in a friendly way the importance of proper storage and other neighborhood manners with the folks who live close to you can improve the entire area's quality of life.
Here is what you can do to help:
  • If you must store something outdoors, please make sure it is contained properly, covered, out of sight of the street, and the situation is temporary. Be sure your storage doesn't create mosquito or other pest habitat!
  • If you find yourself storing goods outside on a long-term basis, evaluate whether you still need them. Perhaps it is time to sell or give away the stored items.
  • It is illegal to store any hazardous material without a permit in an unsecured location and/or in improper containers
  • Make sure your outdoor storage is rodent and pest-proof.
  • Report outdoor storage to the 311 Customer Call Center so codes inspectors can determine if it is illegal.

The Incentives

Why is it important to have a low Community Appearance & Litter Index? According to research conducted on behalf of Keep America Beautiful Inc. in 2009, litter causes property values to fall between 7% and 9%, and 36% of business development officials say that litter impacts location decisions for corporations.

Another very good reason to keep litter off our city is that litter contributes to flooding during heavy rains. The litter that lays in your street today will be blocking your storm drain tomorrow. And after that, its next stop is the Chesapeake Bay. All of our storm drains empty into area waterways, either directly into the Bay or into a creek or river that runs into the Bay.

Neat, attractive, and clean communities are more highly valued by potential homebuyers and businesses. The sense of community that these qualities radiate improve real estate values, reduce crime, and make for a higher quality of life.

Even More

Then there is the matter of community pride and spirit. It is hard to feel good about your home, your neighborhood or your city if you are surrounded by litter, abandoned vehicles, graffiti, illegal signs, and the junky look that can come from improper outdoor storage. Maybe you didn't do any of these deeds, but if you don't work to overcome them, who will? While you're waiting for someone else to act, they are messing up your community. The volunteers of the Hampton Clean City Commission urge you to become a clean community activist. Speak up about litter of all kinds, including visual litter, do what you can to change the scene, and always lead by example!

For More Information

For more information about litter prevention, contact the Hampton Clean City Commission at (757) 727.1130 or email. Our media contact is Debbie Blanton, Hampton Clean City Commission Coordinator.