Fredericksburg Officer Has Offenders Clean Island, Not Pay Fines

When a police officer in Fredericksburg, Virginia, caught a young man drinking a beer in public last week, he didn't hand the man a ticket. He handed him a trash bag.

Police body camera footage showed Officer Joe Young's encounter with a man in swim trunks drinking out of a glass bottle on a hot day on Ficklen Island.

“Do you want $250 worth of fines and court costs, or do you want to help me out?" the Fredericksburg Police Department officer says. "It’s going to take about five minutes of your time.”

Then, he pulls his preferred crime-fighting weapon out of his police vest: A garbage bag.

The man accepts the bag, and together, they start picking up the cans and bottles that litter the land on the Rappahanock River.

"Great young man. He actually filled up three of my garbage bags. Then, in addition to that, wanted to know how to pay the fines. And I told him, 'There are no fines. You made the right decision,'" Young said.

If people caught committing minor crimes on Ficklen Island are polite and have no criminal record, Young gives them the option to clean up the riverbank instead of being fined for drinking in public, among other charges.

Young works on Ficklen Island at least eight hours a day, six days a week, and doubles as the watershed manager for the city.

“My goal is zero litter, zero graffiti," he said.

Many surfaces on the island are tagged with graffiti, some of it gang-related.

Young said he loves the river and wants to protect it for others.

“It needs to be protected. It is beautiful. It is this region’s life source. We have to keep it clean," he said.

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