I was sitting on my couch on a quiet, sunny morning in Ocean Beach on February 25, when the not-too-unusual sounds of police sirens made me get up to see what the ruckus was about.
I saw two women talking to a third woman, whose bike was lying on the pavement. One police car and two officers were there, and within minutes, two other squad cars showed up.
After approaching to talk to them, I discovered that two of the women were code-enforcement officers with the city; they had tracked down the third woman, whom they said had been seen rummaging through recycling bins in search of bottles and cans to redeem for cash.
Neither my neighbors (who were spectators) nor I were aware that this taking from recycling bins is a misdemeanor. When cited, a court date is set; a failure to appear would be followed by a bench warrant that can carry a fine of up to $1000 and six months in jail.
The woman the code-enforcement officers had been chasing pleaded with them for a warning, but they wrote her a citation. When I asked why it was illegal, I was told that we get free trash pickup in San Diego and this is funded by our recycling program; scavengers have siphoned millions of dollars from the program, according to the officers.
One of the officers told me that one of the scavengers was in a car and tried to run her down last week when she was attempting to approach the driver with a citation. She was able to get out of the way in time. She said there has been a big surge of recycling pilfering during the past couple of years due to the suffering economy, and some of the transgressors have grown hostile and even violent.
To report someone digging in your recycling bin, call Environmental Services at 858-694-7000.