Trash truck drivers are on the road most days and police are taking advantage of that to help them spot emergencies and unusual activity.

In a unique partnership, as part of the Waste Watch program, 30 Waste Management of Arizona (WM) drivers recently received training to act as an extra pair of eyes and ears for police, sheriff’s deputies, fire department and emergency services, reporting emergencies or suspicious activity that may occur along their routes.

WM is working with local law enforcement in Payson, Show Low, Pinetop-Lakeside and Winslow.

Drivers that service residential and commercial customers in Payson and surrounding communities were trained and certified Wednesday, July 14, taking part in the instruction before their 6 a.m. shift start.

Following formal training provided by WM, Payson Police Department Sgt. Justin Deaton spoke with the group and took questions. Drivers were encouraged to become familiar with what is normal along their routes and to call in any suspicious activity, safety concerns or crimes they see while working their routes.

“If you see something, say something,” said Sgt. Justin Deaton, noting it could prevent or mitigate a crime.

“You drivers are out there all the time and spread all over. It doesn’t matter where you are — in Payson or Tonto Basin, Pine or Strawberry, East Verde Estates or Flowing Springs — if you see something out of the ordinary, pull over and get a call out to us. Let us know where you are and what you saw. If you see someone running behind a business at 3 or 4 in the morning when you’re dumping commercial bins, that’s not normal. Give us a call.”

Asked how helpful it will be to local law enforcement and the community to have Waste Watch trained WM drivers as additional watchful observers, Deaton said it could have real value. In collection trucks, he noted, drivers may observe potential issues that would go unnoticed even to an observant neighbor.

Waste Watch is part of the company’s community outreach safety program.

“Our teams of local drivers work regular routes collecting trash and recycling from residences and businesses, so they are a useful resource for identifying suspicious activity and can serve as a preventative measure that may prevent a minor mishap from turning into a dangerous situation,” said Angel Carbajal, senior manager of corporate security for Waste Management.

“Safety is our top priority, and the communities of northern Arizona we serve will benefit from our program in helping to keep the community safe.”

Familiar with the neighborhoods they navigate every week while working, WM drivers are good candidates to spot something out of the ordinary, especially after being trained by local police experts. Once trained and certified, if anything occurs while on their routes, drivers will have the necessary tools to act quickly in communicating vital information to 911 or to their dispatcher in the case of a non-life-threatening emergency.

Contact the reporter at tmcquerrey@payson.com

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