Joggers and passersby gathered to get a closer look at a pop-up “crime scene” Friday at Prien Lake Park featuring the sculpture man made entirely of litter lying on the grass.
The figure, about 7 feet long, was outlined in white as if by chalk and surrounded in yellow crime scene tape. A series of yard signs in the area displayed lesser-known statistics about litter.
“In Louisiana, 81 percent of litter is intentional,” one sign read.
“Litter is not only plastic bottles and cigarette butts; it’s also orange peels and apple cores,” read another.
A third sign cited what Louisiana taxpayers pay to combat litter — $40 million each year.
The installation, organized by Calcasieu Parish as part of its spring campaign against litter, marked a change of approach from previous campaigns that targeted young audiences using light-hearted messages.
“The last several years’ have been kind of fun, trying to reach the kids,” said organizer Cindy Murphy. “But we felt this year it was time to get some hard facts out there so that the adults can understand all the ill effects of litter.”
She said the idea behind this year’s theme was to drive home the fact that littering is a crime, punishable by up to $500 in fines.
“Sometimes people throw a cigarette out of the window and they convince themselves, ‘It’s just so little; it’s not litter,’ ” Murphy said. “They try to justify it. This is just a really good reminder that it is a crime.”
Parish spokesman Tom Hoefer said the problem is “especially bad right now” as a result of economic activity bringing in more heavy-duty vehicles.
“There are so many trucks in town, and litter just flies out of trucks — beer cans, fertilizer bags,” Hoefer said.
He said people have also been improperly dumping large loads like crawfish heads, mattresses and tires.
He suggested those with trash that can’t fit in their regular bins make use of the parish’s dumpsites: one on the east at 5500-B Swift Plant Road in Lake Charles and another on the west at 2915 Post Oak Road in Sulphur.
The sites are available to all parish residents with a valid driver’s license 7 a.m.-5 p.m. every day except Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
Hoefer advised those who witness someone littering to call in the license plate to the parish’s 493-LITR hotline and officials will send out a violation letter.
In addition to awareness efforts, Murphy said, the parish regularly speaks at local schools about the harmful effects of litter and gives away items such as studentdesigned litter bags, coloring books, and silicon bracelets that say “Don’t be a litterbug.”
She said litter clogs drainage systems, dirties local waterways, and “makes our parish and our state look like we just don’t care.”
“It’s so far-reaching in every part of our lives,” Murphy said. “I don’t think people think about that.”
Murphy said her hope is for the sculpture to start a discussion that makes its way onto social media. She asked those who post pictures to use the hashtag #KeepCalcasieuClean.
She said it’s hard to measure how the campaign influences people’s choices but that bringing attention to the issue can only be a positive thing.
“Any way we can get the message out about litter being against the law and that we really need to band together and do something about it — that’s what we try to do,” Murphy said.