Money Watchers: RI bill would increase littering fines

Some Rhode Island lawmakers say trash, litter and other debris has been piling up and spoiling city, town and state streets, lawns and roadsides.

"There's been a proliferation of large items being disposed of, mattresses and other larger items," said state Sen. Dominick Ruggerio.

The Senate approved a bill that will increase the fine from a maximum of $500 to $1,000. A second offense would be increased to $5,000. In addition, whoever does the littering would also be liable for its removal and ordered to pay for any costs associated with it.

NBC 10 checked with some of the state's largest cities to see how much of a problem littering is.

Since 2014, Warwick has issued three littering summons. Pawtucket has issued two summonses. It issued nine in 2013.

With numbers so low, NBC 10 asked if the bill was more about prevention than enforcement.

"Well, obviously the individual would have to get caught in the act. In the past that has happened. But I think the cities and towns prefer to have an increase in the penalty so to discourage this type of activity. Obviously we're a tourism state. A lot of revenue depends on tourism and we don't want to see blighted areas as a result of littering in those areas," Ruggerio said.

The bill is expected to be passed in the House.

Towns and cities will share in any revenue generated from fines with the state.