The Santa Rosa Police Department has been investigating Environmental Crimes since 1991. Environmental crimes normally take the form of an illegal disposal of a hazardous or harmful material to our waterways, landfills or regional waste water system. The most dangerous types of materials are classified as hazardous wastes and are extremely dangerous to humans, wildlife and the environment in general. However, substances released into our creeks and streams need not be classified as hazardous material to represent a significant threat to the very fragile ecosystem that exists there. Something as seemingly harmless as latex paint can have a very deleterious impact on our creeks and streams.
The Environmental Crimes Team is comprised of one full-time investigator and one to two sworn officers assigned in a collateral capacity. These officers receive specialized training in environmental crime investigations and hazardous materials recognition. They work closely with regulatory specialists from the City of Santa Rosa Fire Department Hazardous Materials Team, Utilities Department Industrial Waste Section, Community Development Building Code Inspectors, and the Public Works Department Storm Water Management Program.
What are some examples of the types of cases the Environmental Crimes Team investigates?
- A local business getting ready to move out of state begins disposing of caustic chemicals by placing them in a dumpster and pouring acid-based materials down a floor drain. Why would someone do such a thing? Well, the proper disposal of hazardous waste costs money. Legitimate businesses that generate hazardous waste contract with companies that are licensed to handle and dispose of such materials. These "normal" business costs are passed on to the consumer.
- A disreputable business person will illegally dispose of the hazardous substance, and still pass the "cost" of proper disposal along to the consumer, realizing a larger profit margin on their product or service. While maximizing profit, the individual creates environmental ills that may cost the public significant health and clean-up costs.
- A building contractor is grading new home lots during the rainy season. The contractor fails to comply with a required erosion control plan that mitigates the impact of rainwater runoff. A large storm hits the region and a significant amount of mud and silt is washed into a nearby stream. This condition is very hazardous, if not deadly, to the aquatic habitat.
- An auto mechanic is replacing a radiator and intentionally drains the radiator fluid into a nearby storm drain. The fluid flows into Santa Rosa Creek killing small fish fingerlings.
What can I do if I see a possible environmental crime occurring?
- If the crime is an in-progress emergency, call 911.
- If the crime is not an emergency but should have an officer respond in a reasonable time frame, call (707) 528-5222. If you have information regarding a person or business you feel may be committing an environmental crime, you can call the Environmental Crime Hotline at (707) 543-4057. You can talk confidentially, and anonymously if you so desire, with an investigator.
Please remember that Environmental Crimes can endanger public health and safety and we need your support to prevent them from occurring.