The roadside in our semi-rural area is relatively litter free. With very few exceptions, it can be easily picked up with one hand, and is not gross.

But one litterer is getting to me. He (or she) tosses out V8 juice cans (tangy) with depressing regularity over a 300 or so foot stretch across the road from my neighbor's property. This probably happens in the morning.

There is a good, and comfortable, lookout point on my neighbor's property which commands the entire stretch, and more, of V8-Juice-Guy's littering. I have seriously considered sitting there with a camera and catching V8JG in the act. With her permission, of course.

Drawbacks to this plan: (1) I'd have to get up too early; (2) crushing boredom and (3) ticks.

Now I wonder if a trail camera or a similar camera could do the work. The camera would have to capture the scene in daylight and give enough detail to get the license plate of a car going at 30 to 50 miles per hour. (50 mph would be reckless on our road, but some people are reckless.) And clearly identify the act of tossing out the V8 juice can with the specific car. There is not much traffic on our road.

As to what I would do with the information if I got it: I am not sure. There are obvious downsides to doing anything. However, people have jumped to the conclusion, without any evidence in this question -- in fact, with evidence to the contrary in this question -- that I will use the information to get embroiled in a time-consuming and thoroughly unpleasant criminal prosecution or civil suit. I repeat: I haven't decided what I would do with the info, if anything. The intelligent first step is to write the litterer a polite letter asking him to stop. But, as I said in the original version of this question, I don't want to discuss my options until/if I get the information. Please confine answers to how I can get the information with an automated set-up.

Addendum on Legal Issue: Littering is illegal in Virginia. Source: Code of Virginia 33.1-346. As for whether photographing a litterer in the act is itself illegal, I will get advice from the Fairfax County (VA) Police if I decide to go forward.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Rory Alsop
    Commented Sep 9, 2018 at 10:14
  • 1
    Alright, I am getting tired of voting on whether to close or leave open the same questions over and over again (there was one where we did it 3 times in a week). We already been over this, please take it to meta if your really think it should be closed. Commented Sep 12, 2018 at 3:51
  • This is the third time I have voted to leave this open, can we please stop doing this? Commented Sep 18, 2018 at 3:41

4 Answers 4


I personally would rather just set an action camera to record over the timespan the litterer usually comes by. Consumer trail cameras don't usually have great definition - worse than action cameras anyway - and the tossing might go unnoticed while with video, you'll grab several frames per second. You could be able to get the car, the littering, and the plates without much effort.


Yes, this should work, trail cameras are used quite frequently to catch people littering.

We know this because a hidden camera caught it all on tape. Juneau police used the footage to find the woman, Janessa Sanbei, and fine her for littering -- one of five tickets issued this spring after the installation of surveillance cameras at popular illegal dumping sites across the capital city. It's a new solution to the old problem of litterbugs along remote country roads, and Juneau officials say it's working.

Juneau trash cams catch litterbugs red-handed

Officer Dustin Burke, of the Oneida Police Department, is helping to coordinate the purchase of several trail cameras, which will be placed at the most-popular dump sites. The cameras are wireless, and usually used to track game. Now, they will provide round-the-clock surveillance – a way to catch and prosecute violators, but also a deterrent.

Scott Co. eyes roadside cameras to fight litter

Just set it up to take the picture and turn the flash off so that people don't see it and get annoyed and since its going to be in a populated area see this question once it gets some answers.

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    +1, but how disgusting, particularly about the dogs.
    – ab2
    Commented Sep 6, 2018 at 17:14
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    Just remember, @ab2, that the camera is what you use to obtain the evidence, but it doesn't make the accusation itself. If it isn't a criminal charge, then you will need to file civil suit as plaintiff. That is also an established precedent in US case law. Commented Sep 7, 2018 at 4:02
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    this would be illegal in Sweden, you are not allowed to film and share films of public places link in swedish
    – Rsf
    Commented Sep 7, 2018 at 8:37
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    You're giving examples of catching people on dump sites when op asks will it work with a car moving 50 mph. I think people dumping trash in the woods are either parked or moving much more slowly. Commented Sep 7, 2018 at 11:45
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    @Rsf: neither in Germany (nor any of the EU I guess)
    – cbeleites
    Commented Sep 11, 2018 at 2:24

A trail camera is unlikely to work. They are motion activated, so will snap pictures of every car passing by. However, you don't just want the picture of the car, you need to show the litterer in the act of tossing the can out the window. The chance of a trail camera taking a shot at just the right moment is slim.

Then there's also the problem of distance or location. You say the act can occur anywhere within a 300 foot span. A trail camera picture of a car 300 feet away isn't going to show much.

Fortunately, memory cards have gotten so large that you can simply capture video or streaming frames for a hour or two, then sift thru this later to find the few relevant seconds. High resolution is better than a high frame rate in this case. 5-10 frames per second should be enough to capture the object in flight. Something with at least HDTV resolution (1920 x 1080) is probably necessary, but more could be useful.

You might even set up multiple cameras from different angles. The frame showing the object being tossed might not identify the car well, but with multiple frames you can show it was the same car captured in more detail in other frames.


Assuming deterrence is your goal, I’d ask your neighbor if you can first put up a “DON’T LITTER - UNDER VIDEO SURVEILLANCE” sign.

That may be enough by itself to deter.

And if not, you can set up the camera later and the perp won’t have any counterclaim of violation of privacy if you catch them in the act.

  • Beyond Brilliant !!
    – ab2
    Commented Sep 12, 2018 at 22:00
  • @ab2: That depends on your aim. If you actually want to catch the perp, then this is not the best method. If all you aim is to not get you little stretch of roadway littered, then it will probably work. The net result, though, is probably just to move the littering to a different location. Commented Sep 14, 2018 at 10:56

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