No Reward for Community Volunteer

She is a community volunteer, doing something no one would ever want to do, and along the way she also spots criminals. She was told, “The next time you do, you will get a reward.” But she never got the reward, and it’s why she called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

What Lazara Martinez does is certainly unusual.

Lazara Martinez: “About five years ago, I started dedicating my time to picking up dead animals.”

The animals were used in religious sacrifices and then dumped in Lazara’s Allapattah neighborhood.

Lazara Martinez: “The stink, the horrible stink of these dead animals laying across our railroad tracks, I was not going to allow that.”

It’s great that Lazara does this, but it does bring up the question: why do such a smelly, thankless task?

Lazara Martinez: “When an area is clean, it is less likely for someone to dump when it’s clean than when there is garbage on it.”

Lazara estimates she has put thousands of dead animals in bags over the years — and then called the city of Miami to pick it up

Lazara Martinez: “Hi, this is Lazara Martinez, community volunteer.”

Along the way, she has spotted another kind of vermin: people dumping trash in her neighborhood.

Lazara Martinez: “Any illegal dumping that I find, I take a picture, send it to the net office and explain, ‘There is a dumping here. Come and pick it up.'”

Many times she has even caught the dumpers in the act.

Lazara Martinez: “Saw the truck unloading stuff, a big pile of stuff. I took a video of it, and I sent it to the police. Then the arrest was made.”

After her tips led to a few arrests, Lazara said a city official surprised her.

Lazara Martinez: “The commander said, ‘You are going to get a reward. The next one that you catch is a $1,000 reward.’ So imagine, I’m psyched up, I’m happy.”

Lazara then videotaped two more dumpers. Two more people were arrested.

And…

Lazara Martinez: “And until today I have no reward, nothing, nothing. Two or three days later, another email. ‘Sorry, we can’t do anything for you.'”

Laraza was told to call Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers, but they don’t give out rewards for illegal dumping. So she went back to the city.

Lazara Martinez: “‘Come on, guys, I’ve caught seven people, and you guys are not acknowledging one or two rewards.'”

With no reward for her tips, Lazara said she feels like she is being dumped on.

Lazara Martinez: “I feel back-stabbed. I feel hurt. I want them to do the right thing. I want them to give the reward.”

Well, Howard, Lazara said she was promised a reward for catching illegal dumping. Can she collect that money?

Howard: “If it’s in writing, of course you get the reward. But if it’s verbal, you are going to have to prove it. Without a witness, it’s a ‘he said, she said,’ and since the city does not have a reward program for illegal dumping, you would lose.”

We talked to the city official who Lazara said told her she would get a reward for her tips. He said he would never say that since they don’t reward tips for illegal dumping.

While Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers also does not pay rewards for turning in dumpers, Broward County Crime Stoppers does.

They wrote us, “Had these events occurred in Broward, we would certainly have paid a reward, now up to $3,000. The best we can say about your story’s hero is that she has done the right thing.”

Needless to say, being called a hero by Broward does not make Lazara smile in Miami-Dade, since she really needed that reward money.

Lazara Martinez: “Just basically to buy gloves, which I need, a better bike. I’m not asking for a miracle, I’m just asking for a little bit of help.”

Now, while she was out picking up animals, her bike was stolen. The one she is using now was loaned to her by a friend.

Now, if you see an advertisement for a reward, you have to play by their rules. For example, with Crime Stoppers, you need to report it through their hotline. They will give you an ID number to help you collect the reward.

Feel you are being dumped on? Ready the trash the trouble? Send a tip to us. We will try to reward you by helping you cash in and solve your problem.

CONTACT HELP ME HOWARD:
Email: helpmehoward@wsvn.com
Reporter: Patrick Fraser at pfraser@wsvn.com
Miami-Dade: 305-953-WSVN
Broward: 954-761-WSVN

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