No evidence for argument

By From page A6 | February 05, 2014

Your recent editorial, “Crime in the Driveway,” repeats the unfounded allegations of our City Council and ignores the elephant in the room, the homeless. We are told that organized crime is taking our aluminum cans, that they are sifting through our trash for personal information to steal our identities, and that the city is losing money over this.

There is no basis for any of this. I am still waiting for a single piece of evidence, ideally from the Davis police, that there is any evidence of organized crime taking our cans or any cases of identity theft associated with it. Do we really even know who is taking the cans? The only people I am aware of who take cans for certain have not even been mentioned in the debate. They are some homeless individuals, working hard to supplement their SSI checks.

As for your headline that “it’s money out of our pockets,” that is not true. It potentially cuts into the revenues of Davis Waste Removal, a private, for-profit company under contract with the city, and presumably increases the revenues of other private companies that collect the cans in shopping center parking lots, where the homeless cash them in.

I wonder if the real issue is that we cannot stomach the thought of a homeless person rummaging through our trash to survive — and we are too dysfunctional to discuss our discomfort directly and instead have to talk around it, speaking about outlandish theories. Curiously, the newly imposed $100 fine is probably not enough to discourage a criminal organization, but is enough to complicate a homeless person’s life with legal problems that will drive them from the city.

It’s one thing for politicians to make unsubstantiated claims for political gain. It’s another thing for the press to support them with sloppy reporting. Even if the organized crime theory was true, or even if Davis Waste Removal’s financial impact really is significant, it is still necessary to discuss the effects of this policy on the homeless. That discussion is missing.

As for me, I don’t mind the tinkle of clinking cans at 4 a.m. on a summer morning. Leaving leftovers for the poor is expected in some societies and required by several major religions. Until I get proof that the mob is involved, I’ll be leaving my cans in a separate box for our less fortunate citizens.

Steve Hampton

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