Taking a stance against scavengers

Costa Mesa wants to lock trash cans, while Newport Beach makes trash rummaging a serious offense.

January 26, 2011|By Mike Reicher,

NEWPORT BEACH — Officials here want to arrest them, and those in Costa Mesa want to inconvenience them.

Trash scavengers have become a bother for residents, officials say, and Newport-Mesa agencies are responding with different approaches to the issue.

On Tuesday night the Newport Beach City Council made it a serious offense to scavenge through trash. The Costa Mesa Sanitary District is considering locking some of its residents' trash cans.


The actions come during a down economy, when more and more people are scrounging through garbage for their income — and more residents are complaining about it.

"It's a way to hopefully deter scavenging and also give residents a sense of comfort," said Scott Carroll, general manager of the Costa Mesa Sanitary District. "But I don't believe you're ever going to have zero scavenging."

Carroll and the city's waste hauler, CR&R, are developing a program to distribute lockable trash cans to residents that request them. Residents would keep a key to lock the cans on collection day. The pull of gravity would open the lids once an automatic arm lifted the bin over the tops of garbage trucks.

Newport is taking a strict enforcement approach, police officials have said, because scavengers sometimes steal bikes and other personal property from residents' garages, and scavengers have been caught collecting information for identity theft.

Residents consistently complain to police, said Lt. Rob Morton at Tuesday's City Council meeting.

"For some people it really provokes a visceral reaction and they don't like it," he said.

"They come up to our doors, they come onto our patios," said Cynthia Kohler, a West Newport resident, who complained that groups of collectors pass through her neighborhood every day.

Many of them are unemployed, underemployed or homeless individuals, said Mike Carey, director of the Orange Coast College Recycling Center in Costa Mesa.

"It's definitely going to affect their livelihood," he said.

Carey discounted one of the officials' justifications for the changes — that the scavengers are stealing from the cities, which benefit from recycling revenue.

"It's not to create or maintain revenue for the city or the waste hauler," he said. "It's to keep people out of the trash."

Before Tuesday, police officers in Newport only had the ability to ticket the recyclers, so officials asked the city to pass a law that would give them the authority to arrest them.

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