Sanitation workers trained to spot crime in Hillsborough, Pasco counties

With Christmas fast approaching, sanitation workers are being asked to do more than collect garbage, and they’re stepping up to the added responsibilities.

Garbage and recycling collectors know your street. They know your house. They may even know you. With that in mind, Bay Area law enforcement agencies are collaborating with Waste Management crews in an effort to add eyes and ears to neighborhoods - and hopefully cut down on crimes.

"There's only so many police officers, only so many sheriff's deputies, there's only so many people from law enforcement that can be out there," Tampa Police Department Chief Brian Dugan pointed out. "When most of these Waste Management personnel are out in these neighborhoods, most people are already at work. So it's an extra patrol car, so to speak."

They call the program Waste Watch, which trains drivers to be on the lookout for anything out of the ordinary. If they do, they notify the proper authorities.

With the holidays around the corner, the job becomes that much more important.

"There are going to be holiday cards and there's going to be money, there's going to be gift cards, there's going to be toys, there's going to be watches, whatever the case may be, and the thieves are out there," said Westchase Community Association member Rick Goldstein.

Thieves are already hard at work in his neighborhood. Recently, two abandoned bags were found full of letters and packages that had been stolen from people’s mailboxes.

"They were looking for cards, envelopes that would look like they have cards in them, so they were probably looking for checks or gift cards or packages that might look like there's something valuable in them," Goldstein explained.

The Waste Watch program aims to curb these crimes.

New drivers in Hillsborough County received their training Wednesday and Pasco County Waste Management workers are being trained starting Thursday.