Why Tampa Bay's trash strategy during 2012 RNC is important

Why Tampa Bay's trash strategy during 2012 RNC is important

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - When it comes to the safety at the Republican National Convention, Cleveland 19 News found that the level of preparedness in many areas is high. But when it comes to trash, the city is saying very little.

What do you do with all the trash generated by 50,000 guests? It's more than a logistical question.

To the trained eye, things like broken bottles can be used as weapons and pose serious safety concerns.

After the 2012 RNC, Tampa Bay's police chief reflected on the event and said that when piles of trash are in places they don't belong, it's clear they're there for other reasons. Waste workers, police, and crews in that city were trained to look for anything that appeared either out of place or that could be thrown or used as a weapon.

Remember, no one thought anything of a backpack left on the street by the Boston Marathon bombers.

In Tampa Bay, officials were on high alert. The city's head of waste said carts were retrieved, dumpsters were locked down, and receptacles were changed out. Garbage carts were cleared from homes along parade routes, and an army of waste workers cleared 1.6 million pounds -- or 800 tons -- more trash that a normal week.

So what about Cleveland?

After repeated questioning, Cleveland 19 News got nothing more than a list of the city's equipment. Officials said the city has 21 of the lower profile garbage  trucks, which are best for maneuvering downtown streets, along with 57 larger trucks.

An after-convention analysis praised Tampa Bay's waste collection and security plan, noting that two days before the convention, the entire downtown was cleared of piles of bricks, bottles, and pipes -- anything that could be thrown. During the convention, bomb squads responded to 63 incidents -- 34 for unattended packages or vehicles and 23 for suspicious packages or vehicles. The average response and resolution was 24 minutes. Forty-five K-9 officers from all over Florida were used.

When questioned whether waste collection workers received special training, the city did not respond. Officials did say there are 86 waste collectors and 81 drivers, along with various supervisors and radio operators, in the Division of Waste Collection.

Again, Tampa Bay's experience in training is all residents can hope and assume the city of Cleveland is doing.

Tampa Bay's police chief has said an indicator may be that if something was cleaned up and the mess reappears, most would agree the items were placed there to be used as weapons. Why something as simple as waste collection is cloaked in such secrecy is anyone's guess, though it follows the city of Cleveland's overall lack of detail on how it plans to deal with all elements of the convention.

To be clear, Cleveland 19 News made repeated requests to the city of Cleveland's Law Department as well as the Mayor's Office for comment.

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