ANTIOCH -- A picture is worth a thousand words.
And for a growing number of Antioch residents, the hope is that posting photos of litter piles and unkempt homes on social media will stir people to action.
Nearly every Contra Costa city deals with its share of illegal dumping, but the amount of filth in Antioch the past few months has led frustrated residents to sound the alarm bells via the Internet.
Facebook users are flocking to social media groups, posting pictures of fresh graffiti, couches left on curbs and discarded piles of plastic bags and boxes behind shopping centers. Meanwhile, more residents are donning neon green safety vests at Antioch's monthly neighborhood cleanup events.
"I think it shows that people really like their city and where they live but are disgusted with the way people treat things," said Lori Cook, creator of the group Cleaning Up Antioch, One Home at a Time.
"It seems like there's a lot more chatter about (illegal dumping)," said Julie Haas-Wajdowicz, the city's environmental coordinator. "Also, people are more aware of it and empowered,"
Antioch city staff has been supportive of the group's efforts, including the public works department providing garbage grabbers, bags and other supplies.
Cook says the Cleaning Up Antioch group started when friend Nancy Kelly found good results writing letters to property owners when she saw blight on their land. Though Kelly is not on Facebook, she still helps with cleanups and finding property information.
"If one person can get this done, then just imagine what can be done if hundreds more are involved," Cook said. "What I love about the site is we have eyes everywhere."
"There's a lot of value in what Facebook can do," added resident Beverly Knight.
Knight, who voluntarily picks up trash at City Park each morning, created the page Empower Antioch Today with the hopes of promoting positive city events and addressing neighborhood concerns.
The total number of "work orders" that Republic Services, Antioch's trash collector, receives for piles of illegal dumping in public right-of-ways has declined the past couple months, Haas-Wajdowicz said.
Work by residents is putting a dent in that number, she said.
"People are starting to see that it's making a difference and becoming more enthusiastic," said resident Ed Antrim. "They want to know who they can contact to help."
Antrim started cleaning up the Mokelumne Trail area near his home about six years ago, as Antioch finances and staff diminished.
Through Facebook, he found like-minded people.
As of midafternoon Friday, some of the posts on the Cleaning Up Antioch page included questions about reporting abandoned vehicles, pictures of tagging on a transformer box at Community Park and trash being picked up in the front yard of a home.
A dozen group members gathered Friday afternoon behind the Staples at Williamson Ranch Plaza to clean a recently dumped mess. That particular area behind the southeast Antioch strip mall had been cleaned two days earlier.
About 15 minutes and nine trash bags later, the area was clean of piles of potting soil, discarded entertainment units, mattresses and other miscellaneous debris.
"Little by little, people are getting the hint," Dale Lutes said.
She started cleaning her neighborhood on the other side of town by Gentrytown Park with friend Evy Marquis three days a week during walks.
"It has to start with you," Marquis said. "We all deserve to live in a nice place."
Haas-Wajdowicz said her department has worked with code enforcement and Republic on a residential garbage-abatement program that allows the city to place liens on those without garbage service for six months.
The city recently sent letters to 27 properties as a reminder they needed to establish their own garbage service, and 14 other properties obliged. The city also sent a pair of citations to owners of a shopping center with inadequate garbage and recycling service.
The closure of a couple of rural roads to through traffic has also helped with illegal dumping, said Ryan Graham, who oversees Antioch's code enforcement division.
Knight said she hopes to create a volunteer-based "neighborhood improvement" team that rallies fellow residents to curb blight and respect their neighborhoods. She also hopes to work with local schools to reinforce the value of community cleanliness.
"It's going to take some time, but we're starting to get a handle on it," Antrim said.
Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164. Follow him at Twitter.com/paulburgarino.
To report suspicious activity, call the Antioch Police nonemergency number at 925-778-2441.
To report graffiti, call 925-779-6950.
To report illegal dumping, call Allied Waste at 925-685-4711 or 1-800 NO DUMPING.
To report abandoned shopping carts, call 1-800-252-4613 or go to www.cartretrieval.net.
For Neighborhood Watch information, call 925-779-6980.
To find the groups, go to https://www.facebook.com/groups/657445600961772/ or https://www.facebook.com/pages/Empower-Antioch-Today/203122599876920
Antioch's next monthly cleanup is 9 a.m. April 5 at the neighborhood near Antioch Middle School, 1500 D St.
The fifth annual citywide Keep Antioch Beautiful cleanup event will be at 8:30 a.m. April 26.