Caught on Camera: Illegal dumpers unloaded nearly 80,000 pounds of tires in Philadelphia

Video captured the suspects as they pulled up to the property on the 1300 block of Unity Street.
PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Illegal tire dumps are dangerous eyesores that litter many corners of Philadelphia.

Philadelphia police are now searching for two suspects after an Action News Investigation into the duo dumping tires at a Frankford business.

The pair was caught on surveillance on a December night. Video captured the suspects as they pulled up to the property on the 1300 block of Unity Street.

You can see the two men get out, throw open the back door and begin tossing tire after tire out of the U-Haul truck.

The illegal dump took just 10 minutes before they vanished into the night.

"It's mountains of tires," said Diana Oakfield who works at Unity Loft LLC, the owners of the property.

She said the suspects have dumped at the site nearly a half dozen times since last summer.

"We've gone to the city, we put in 311 requests for illegal dumping and don't hear anything from them. (We) don't hear anything from the cops and we just need help basically. (We) don't know what to do," she said.

Oakfield said the company received quotes upwards of $100,000 to remove the estimated nearly 4,000 tires.

It is a price tag the company can't afford.

"I was on the phone with a local company, they don't even want to take the tires. It's not worth their time," said Oakford.

The city told Action News it has spent nearly $100,000 to properly dispose of illegal tire dumps across the city just this year.

That number is on pace for the city to spend more than what it did for all of 2020 and 2021.

"We picked up around 7,000 tons of material last year for illegal dumping," said recycling program director Kyle Lewis. "About a quarter of that was illegal tire dumping."

Lewis called illegal tire dumps a major priority for the city, but she said catching perpetrators on surveillance like this company did is rare.

Even more troubling, Lewis said tires are both an environmental and fire hazard.

"Your average tire has seven gallons of oil, "she said. "And that is one of the main components of a tire, which is why tire fires burn so hot."

In 2019, the city established a new law that would require tire dealers to be licensed, identify a registered hauler who properly disposes of tires at a recycling center and maintain logs for incoming and outgoing tires.

Lewis said due to the pandemic, implementation has been slow.

Dealers are currently being notified of the new law and enforcement is expected to ramp up within the next year.

"We were hoping that the police, or so on, would investigate," said Unity Lofts employee Steven Johnson.

Investigators with Philadelphia police's Major Crimes Unit are now on the case after Action News got involved. They believe the suspects are likely disposing of these tires for local auto and tire shops on the cheap.

They want you to take a close look at the suspects and to call them if you know who they are or the shops they're taking the tires from.

And after our investigation, the city sent out a brigade of trucks and front loaders and cleaned up all the tires at the Frankford property.

Crews hauled away 78,000 pounds of tires. It's a relief for Unity Loft LLC.

"We want to make something of this property and it's hard to do when people come in, throw trash everywhere," said Oakford.

The penalties for illegal dumping range from a minimum of $2,000 up to $25,000 per incident.

And offenders could also be forced to pay for the cleanup.
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