Illegal or 'midnight' dumping is not unique to New York. Big Apple Sanitation Commissioner John Doherty has been asked for advice from as far away as London. "I think almost every city has the problem to some degree," he says.

*One of the worst cities in the country for illegal dumping is Chicago, whose volume of illegally dumped garbage is soaring this year. In the first six months, the city has picked up 144,000 tons of refuse compared to 177,142 for all of 1994. Last year Chicago surpassed New York, which picked up 151,686 tons of illegal trash.

Susan Olavarria, a spokeswoman for the Chicago Department of Streets and Sanitation, says a major reason for illegal dumping (she calls it "fly dumping") is a large volume of construction. Contractors are dumping their waste off the city's freeways.

*To counter the flood of illegal trash, some cities are getting tough. In 1992, Oakland, a city with a bad dumping problem, started a campaign called "We Mean Clean," which not only enacted monetary fines, but made offenders clean up dumped trash as community service sentences.

Oakland fenced in 56 "hot spots" and put up cameras. Within a few weekends, the city made 28 arrests. There was TV coverage: "We went after the guys, and the judges were adamant about the seriousness of the crime," says Gary Doyle, a public works officer who says illegal dumping is now under control.

*Houston has also attacked the problem. The city set up a program called "RAT on a RAT," with a hotline. Over the past two years, the city has given out $5,200 in rewards to people who turn in illegal dumpers.

Once Houston's five sanitation police officers or four inspectors catch a dumper, the city makes them clean up their mess. Last year, the dumpers cleaned up 3,000 tons of illegal trash.

Houston has found that 50 percent of the dumpers have criminal records. "People have figured out it's one more easy scam," says Tom Collins the city's assistant chief inspector. If someone gets caught dumping more than five pounds of trash in the city, they risk a year in jail and a $4,000 fine - as well as being forced to clean up their mess.

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