Every day, waste collectors play an important role — they pick up trash and recycling along the streets of Puyallup.
But now, they’re taking on another important job.
This month, the Puyallup Police Department partnered with drivers at Waste Connections to start the “Collection Detection” program.
“The whole premise around the program is to create a rolling block watch,” said Keriann Cockrell, crime prevention coordinator with the Puyallup Police Department. “Drivers (with Waste Connections) are familiar with their routes. They’re known to many of the customers that they serve, and they’re on virtually every street within the city of Puyallup. So it’s an opportunity to add extra eyes and ears for the department.”
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About 25 drivers at Waste Connections participated in a Feb. 2 training by Puyallup police on what to look for while they’re on their routes.
25Waste Collection drivers
“They know the neighborhood, they’re there every week, so they’re looking for vehicles that don’t belong, suspicious behavior,” Puyallup Sgt. Kevin Gill said.
If drivers see something out of place, they’re instructed to call the police department or 911.
Drivers can also report graffiti and keep an eye on packages left on doorsteps.
“It helps a lot during the holiday season because of all the package thefts,” Puyallup officer Dave Temple said. “They’re out there so they know who lives at the house or occupies the house, so if a suspicious car pulls up and takes the packages, these guys can give the call right away.”
Waste Connections operations manager Ryan Guild first made the call to the department last year, interested in creating the program. Other cities in the state have similar watch programs, including Seattle, but “Collection Detection” is unique to Puyallup.
A “Collection Detection” logo and hats are in the works with help from Puyallup High School students, Cockrell said.
A nine-year driver with Waste Connections, Alex Ruiz thinks the program is a great idea.
“It’s always good to have an extra set of eyes,” he said. “We’re always looking out, having our heads on a swivel — not just for cars, (but) looking out for people...I know who’s gonna be where and what time. And so if anything doesn’t look right, doesn’t feel right, that’s when I’d put an extra eye on it.”
It’s always good to have an extra set of eyes. We’re always looking out, having our heads on a swivel — not just for cars, (but) looking out for people...I know who’s gonna be where and what time. And so if anything doesn’t look right, doesn’t feel right, that’s when I’d put an extra eye on it.
Alex Ruiz, Waste Connections driver
Even before the program launched, Waste Connections proved they have helpful resources. When an employee’s truck was stolen from the company’s lot off Levee Road in January, one of their drivers found it a week later in Bonney Lake.
A Waste Connections driver had recorded two vehicles that were dangerously passing one of the garbage trucks.
The second vehicle that passed happened to be their employee’s missing truck.
“We called the driver that services that area and about 15 minutes later he calls in — ‘I found the truck,’ and it was in someone else’s backyard,” Guild recounted. “So because of our footprint and number of people we had out there, as soon as we had a general idea where (the truck was), we had people close by and we were able to communicate with our team and keep an eye out.”
The very next day, those drivers attended the “Collection Detection” training. It was proof that they could help the community just by keeping watch.
We’re on every street. Any given day, there are 15 to 20 of us driving around and (police) can’t be expected to cover every street. So if something is different, we’re there.
Mike Tripp, Waste Connections supervisor
“We’re on every street,” Waste Connections supervisor Mike Tripp said. “Any given day, there are 15 to 20 of us driving around and (police) can’t be expected to cover every street. So if something is different, we’re there.”
The department is looking to continue the program as long as they’re able, and sees it as the beginning of a great relationship. The department plans to check in on the drivers every so often to see how the program is doing. Cockrell hopes it will encourage neighborhoods to set up their own block watches with Puyallup PD.
“We feel an obligation to give back to the communities we’re fortunate to serve,” Waste Connection district manager Josh Metcalf said. “We see this as a natural fit to be able to give back and keep Puyallup a safe place to live.”