Waste Management truck drivers get crime-watcher training

March 24, 2008
Companys' security department teams with police to train drivers to spot suspicious activity

CORONA - It's the extra set of eyes and ears the Riverside County Sheriff's Department is looking for.

On Thursday morning, nearly 90 drivers from Waste Management's Inland Division received training on the trash haulers' Waste Watch Program.

"If something doesn't look right, then it's probably not," said Corona police Cpl. J. Mazzarini.

Waste Watch is a community service program that partners Waste Management with law enforcement in an effort to help report emergency situations or any suspicious activity.

"You might drive around in 20,000-pound trucks, but you're almost invisible," Kris Spilsbury, western group security director for Waste Management told the drivers last week.

Spilsbury said this program will give drivers the knowledge and confidence to help law enforcement.

Waste Management officials and law enforcement officers from Norco and Corona went through the procedures they should follow should they encounter a situation during their route.

"It's a great opportunity for us to partner with the community we serve," said Steve Kanow, director of operations for Waste Management.

Spilsbury said the Waste Watch program is being launched throughout the nation.

To date, they have trained 50 percent of their 24,000 drivers nationwide, he said.

"They drive these routes for at least 20 years, so they know it better than anybody," Spilsbury said. "They know if something is out of place and can call or inform the police department."

But the session wasn't just for the police department to hand out safety information. During one of the three pre-dawn sessions, Sgt. John Magnan of the Sheriff's Department's Norco office said he learned about an issue the drivers were having with some homeless people in the community.

Magnan said now that he has been made aware, he is going to send a unit to investigate.

"It's just another way to gather information," Magnan said.

Magnan took the training as an opportunity to inform the drivers about the spike in foreclosures in the community and asked that they keep an eye on those homes. Magnan said a lot of times the homes are being broken into and thieves are taking appliances such as washers and dryers.

Alex Braicovich, director of governmental affairs for Waste Management Inland Division, said Corona is just the latest substation to receive the training. The Waste Watch program is already implemented in its Moreno Valley and Chino substations.

Daniel Ayala, who has been driving around Corona and Norco for nearly 18 years, said the training informed him about the proper steps to take, as well as what numbers to call in an emergency.

"This program was good because it connected us with police officials," Ayala said. "As a member of this company, I think we need to be able to cooperate with the city."