Baltimore City workers will begin hauling trash out of the yards of abandoned houses today, getting an early start on a citywide cleanup planned for early next month.
Residents are being asked to pick up trash and debris in their neighborhoods on Oct. 9, when the city holds its twice-annual cleanup.
In addition to that daylong event, city work crews will start a yearlong effort today to clear 5,000 trash-strewn private yards that blight the city.
Since Mayor Martin O'Malley took office nearly five years ago, the city has held cleanup events each fall and spring.
This is the first time that city crews will tackle trash on private property. Until now, the cleanup efforts have been restricted to public land or rights-of-way, such as parks or alleys.
The city has the legal right to clean the yards if the trash poses a health or safety risk, O'Malley said yesterday as he announced the cleanup efforts at City Hall.
"It's as if we're trying to feed the rats by keeping yards this way," O'Malley said.
The city will place liens of at least $300 on the properties it cleans and will seek prosecution of the owners for housing code violations.
The city's first cleanup, called the Super Spring Sweep Thing, took place in March 2000, when 2,800 volunteers picked up more than 2,500 tons of trash. In last spring's effort, 6,800 residents swept up 1,078 tons.
Even though the number of volunteers has increased over the years, the amount of trash collected has decreased because years of accumulated garbage was cleared out in the early cleanups, city officials said.
The Department of Public Works will supply brooms, rakes, shovels and trash bags to residents participating in the Oct. 9 cleanup, as well as trucks to haul away the debris. Community groups that want to take part are asked to register with the city by Oct. 1 by calling 410-396-4572.