2-year-old girl ticketed for littering in DC by the Department of Public Works
WASHINGTON (WJLA) - It all started with an envelope, found in an alley off West Virginia Avenue in Northeast Washington.
In that same alley, piles of garbage were left behind by illegal dumpers.
The name on the envelope? Harper Westover, who’s just 2 years old.
“Put some common sense into this,” declared Chuck Westover, Harper’s father. “Just because you find a piece of mail on the ground, obviously doesn't mean that person was the one that put it there.”
Harper’s address was also on the envelope.
But no one bothered to check the address, right next to the alley, and at least initially, no one realized Harper’s age.
But the city did send a $75 citation for littering, which came in the mail.
“I opened up an envelope that listed Harper as having violated D.C.'s littering code,” said Harper’s mother Theresa. “And Harper goes, 'littering, that's not good.’”
So, she began making calls, even contacted the Department of Public Works (DPW) inspector who wrote up the report.
“She told me that Harper's name had been found on a piece of mail that was on the ground in the alley and basically implying she was not going to rescind the ticket,” Westover said.
She also spoke with DPW’s communications director.
“She told me they'd be willing to withdraw the ticket or dismiss it, or whatever word you'd like to use, if I could prove to them that Harper was only 2.”
Westover was prepared to send a copy of Harper’s birth certificate.
She mulled over the idea Friday.
When reporters from ABC7 and other news outlets began asking questions, Andre Lee, a DPW spokesperson, came to the Westover’s neighborhood to see the situation for himself.
“I heard that it was a 2-year-old illegal dumper, so I'm like wow, really?” Lee said.
After checking around, Lee assured the Westovers not to worry, that they wouldn’t have to pay the fine.
“I apologized to them for the mistake, but we're doing our jobs,” Lee said. “But it shouldn't have gotten this far. Someone should have come, like I'm out here, and we do what we need to do.”
The Westovers figure the envelope somehow fell out of their trash.
That’s right - the envelope was found in an alley behind the Westovers' house, where they leave their trash bins.
Harper herself appears unfazed by the incident, talking and laughing with her parents Friday afternoon.
“She’s not a criminal,” Chuck Westover smiled. “We talk to her all the time about picking up trash and not littering and stuff like that. So, the big irony is that she was tagged with this violation.”
The family is hoping this will be a wake-up call for the DPW, to more thoroughly investigate cases before handing out citations.
“There obviously needs to be some common sense layered into the system somewhere,” Theresa Westover said.