Our View

Crime in the driveway

By From page A6 | January 29, 2014

The issue: It’s not just a nuisance, it’s money out of our pockets

There are certainly more pleasant ways to wake up than to the sound of rustling aluminum cans as someone rummages through your garbage or recycling bin. Especially at 4:30 a.m., it may take a few groggy moments even to figure out that it’s something as harmless as soda-can theft and not a more sinister sound. But good luck getting back to sleep …

SPURRED BY citizens’ complaints, the Davis City Council last week passed an ordinance forbidding people from scavenging out of recycling bins. The rule targets organized operations who use flatbed trucks and travel from neighborhood to neighborhood and house to house, often going onto people’s property in search of recyclables. They’re after cans and bottles with a CRV deposit — the “good stuff,” as refuse goes. There’s opportunity for a little identity theft on the side, too, if there happens to be a stray bit of confidential information in the trash.

And that’s at single-family homes. Apartment complexes, with their central collection points and denser habitation, provided a much larger volume at one stop.

The revenue Davis Waste Removal gets from these relatively high-value items subsidize the community’s entire recycling operation. DWR is able to pick up our other recyclables — cardboard, plastic and paper — at no extra cost because of the money they generate.

John Geisler, operations manager for Davis Waste Removal, says that from 2011 to 2013, collection of aluminum cans is down 6 tons, or about 12 percent. Plastic is down 13 percent. There’s no way of determining how much of that is theft, but it’s hard to believe that Davis residents are recycling dramatically less in the past two years.

In any case, it’s money out of the city’s pocket, and it’s a cost ultimately paid in higher collection rates.

SO THE CITY stepped in. The first violation for theft of recyclables will draw a $100 fine, with $200 for the second and $500 for any additional violations.

If you hear people digging through your trash, it’s best not to confront them. In bigger cities, the scavengers have gotten belligerent, especially if there’s more than one crew working in a given area. You can call the police at 530-747-5400. If you see the trucks, get the license plate number.

One of the most effective things to do is to wait until the morning of DWR’s actual pickup to wheel out your bins. It keeps your bin from being targeted, and if enough people stick to this schedule, your entire neighborhood will be less attractive to the scavengers.

It may be an inconvenience to get up that early, but it sure beats being awakened before the sun comes up.

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