Hebei cities create forces to probe violations
All 11 cities in Hebei province have set up police divisions to crack down on environmental crime in a pilot project, authorities said.
The city divisions were in place by the end of last month, and “county public security bureaus are now building their own forces”, said Gu Liang, spokeswoman for the project.
They will cooperate with the environmental protection bureaus of the counties, cities and province to look into pollution-related crimes, according to regulations laid out by the provincial public security department, which started launching the new divisions in September.
However, cooperation between the bureaus and new divisions has not gone as well as hoped, an official who refused to be identified said.
Local public security forces lack the expertise in collecting evidence in environmental pollution cases, while the environmental protection department does not have the resources to provide support.
Besides, it is not easy to collect evidence of air pollutants, as many companies emit pollutants over a short period at night, leaving no evidence.
As a result, investigations in suspected environmental crimes are mainly in suspected soil and water pollution cases, the official said. After the local public-security and environmental- protection teams work out how to cooperate in environmental crimes, the new teams may play a bigger role in protecting the environment, the official added.
Chang Chunping, an associate professor of environmental protection at Hebei Normal University, agreed that it is difficult to fight environmental crime.
“Setting up a specialized team is a good start to deter those who pollute the environment, but not enough to supervise the companies and control them effectively,” he said.
Chang suggested that the governments require companies that discharge pollutants to install surveillance cameras, and public participation will help the small police team.
“But more importantly, the two departments need to work out a plan to control pollution jointly,” he said.
In Yutian county, site of the first criminal investigation into environmental pollution, the companies that used to pollute the air cleaned up their act after the tough punishment.
Xu Caiming, who owns a company that produces rubber from used tires, said his company had been closed since the exposure in June, and installed new equipment in reducing pollutants emissions.
“I have seen the results of polluting the air from the case in our county. I believe making new crime categories will work,” he said.
More than 1,000 small companies have been shut down since then, bringing significant improvement to the air quality, he added.
To reopen his factory, he has to invest about 2.6 million yuan ($ 427,000) to update production lines.
“I took this as an opportunity to upgrade my products,” he said. “After all, air pollution affects all of us.”