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Atascadero rejects scavenging ordinance

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Atascadero Police Chief Jerel Haley proposed an anti-scavenging ordinance May 22 that would have made it illegal for anyone but city staffers and collection contractors to remove items from solid waste containers.

Haley said that his department has received numerous complaints from residents who were afraid to leave their homes while suspicious individuals raided curbside waste bins for recyclable bottles and cans. Many people were also concerned about messes left behind and the potential for identity theft, he added.

“We’re trying to, as much as possible, increase and enhance the sense of security for residents,” Haley said.

The ordinance didn’t specify a fine for offenders, and Haley said his officers wouldn’t be filling out ticket books to go after vagrants. Haley said the ordinance would help officers push people in need toward using city services for food, clothing, and shelter, which he said would serve them better than collecting cans.

“I’d much rather see someone working to earn a little money, even if it’s digging through trash, instead of seeing them down at the corner or at the overpass panhandling,” Councilwoman Roberta Fonzi said.

The City Council voted 3-2 to reject the proposed ordinance.  Dissenting votes came from Mayor Bob Kelley  and Councilman Brian Sturtevant, who described an incident where a scavenging vagrant caused him to fear for the safety of his wife and four daughters.

*This article was changed May 24 to correct the council's vote tally. There were two votes in support of the ordinance.

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