Recently, a resident inquired over the legality of people going through their trash cans, and collecting items. Presumably, and more often than not, these individuals are looking for items which can be recycled, to sell at a local center. However, there is the potential that individuals who search the trash might also be in search of private information.
Is It Illegal?
Although there is a Supreme Court case which deals with the searching of trash (See California V. Greenwood), the question is whether it is legal to take possession of a person's trash, even after they have discarded or "thrown it away." Azusa Municipal Code Section 58-37, specifies the following:
No person shall remove or convey any residential or commercial rubbish upon or along any public street or alley or other public place in the city; provided, however, this section shall not apply to any person in the employ of the city who shall be assigned by the director of public works to the work of refuse disposal or to any person with whom the city has entered into a contract for the collection, removal and disposal of refuse or to any employee of such contractor during the time the contract shall be in force.
Therefore, yes, it is illegal to take someone's trash, providing it is in a public place, alley or public street.
What About Private Streets?
It is not a violation of the above quoted municipal code, however, Azusa Municipal Code Section 58-42 specifies the following:
No person other than city employees or designees shall remove from any containers placed in, along or upon any street any rubbish, junk or any waste or refuse material.
This makes it illegal to remove someone's trash, regardless of the location.
If you see someone going through your trash, you can call the Azusa Police Department at (626) 812-3200 and notify our dispatchers of the situation. We will send a police officer to your location and attempt to locate the trash picker. The officer will complete an investigation, and depending on the totality of the circumstances discovered, may issue a citation or a warning, to the trash picker.
For Your Safety
It's a great idea to shred your mail and any documentation you may be throwing away. Anyone can find out a great deal of information about you, by simply reading some of your trash. This can lead to several crimes, such as forgery and identity theft.
During The Holidays
We all love receiving those great gifts on holidays or birthdays. However, keep in mind, when you throw those boxes away, it informs the public what you may have in your residence. To make it less obvious, consider cutting or tearing the boxes, and throwing them away in segments, over a short period of time.