Garbage truck drivers get trained to help police

Noel Lyn Smith
Armando Ortiz, a driver with Waste Management, picks up trash bins on Wednesday along Wellington Street in Farmington. Ortiz was among the Waste Management garbage truck drivers who received training earlier this month on how to help local law enforcement by reporting suspicious activities.

FARMINGTON — Another pair of eyes are helping keep the city's streets safe, thanks to a collaboration between Waste Management Inc. and the Farmington Police Department.

Earlier this month, Farmington police Officer Greg Ericksen and Kris Spilsbury, who works with Waste Management Corporate Security, trained 19 garbage truck drivers and two managers about how to identify suspicious behaviors, what type of activities to look for while traveling routes and how to report information to local authorities.

The training was part of Waste Watch, the company's nationwide program that trains residential and commercial drivers on how to assist law enforcement agencies and fire departments.

The company's drivers travel throughout the city each day and can notice out-of-the-ordinary situations, said Isha Cogborn, senior communication specialist for Waste Management.

"If our drivers see something going on, they do what they can to be of service," Cogborn said, adding the company began working to bring Waste Watch to Farmington late last year.

Dustin Maxwell, district manager for the Farmington Waste Management office, called the program "neat" because it gives drivers an additional role in the community.

Armando Ortiz, a driver with Waste Management, carries a trash can to his truck on Wednesday on Wellington Street in Farmington.

So far, Farmington drivers have not reported any incidents to police, Cogborn said.

Other cities, however, have benefited from the service.

Last week, a garbage truck driver in Aspen, Colo., reported a gas leak in a residential area, preventing an emergency situation, Cogburn said.

Farmington police spokeswoman Georgette Allen said the training also covered the differences between reporting emergency and non-emergency situations.

"These types of training benefit the community because police can't be everywhere at once," she said. "They rely on citizens to be extra eyes and ears."

Waste Management, which is based in Houston, operates a network of recycling facilities, transfer stations and landfill services that serve more than 21 million customers in the U.S. and Canada, according to its website.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-546-4636.

Armando Ortiz, a driver with Waste Management, drives up Wellington Street in Farmington on Wednesday.