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October 22, 2009

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High-rise litterbugs difficult to nab as complaints mount

CITY property-management companies are in a dilemma over how to stop people living in high-rise buildings from throwing litter out of balconies and windows.

Apartment owners in lower levels are increasing pressure on the firms to take action - easier said than done.

"It has been a headache for society for a long time," said Xu Yubiao, vice secretary general of a Shanghai property-management association. "It is just so hard to pinpoint offenders."

The practice is not only socially unacceptable but also potentially lethal for pedestrians.

The problem resurfaced last Saturday when an apartment owner posted a notice in his building accusing neighbors living upstairs of twice throwing used condoms onto his balcony.

"I have never had such a disgusting 'windfall,'" said the owner, surnamed Yu, who lives in a Putuo District complex.

Yu nailed the condoms onto the community notice board, which caused controversy among neighbors and online.

Property management officials of Yu's residence said they would try to locate the condom thrower.

"We will have staff closely monitoring high-rise windows," officials said in a statement to residents.

However, officials said they had no jurisdiction to hand out penalties.

Warnings and education in manners were their only courses of action.

"They could easily offend again," said Xu.

Throwers inevitably deny involvement and as there is generally no direct evidence, government authorities find it difficult to impose penalties.

Under anti-litter legislation, high-rise litterbugs face fines of up to 200 yuan (US$29.30).

Normally, police officers only become involved if people are killed or injured or property is damaged, according to Xu.

There is one notable exception.

A high-rise resident who twice dumped litter in a residential complex in 2007 was detained for 10 days by Huangpu District police.

The litterbug was caught in the act by a surveillance camera.


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