[Editor's Note: The shared some context last week in response to some reader comments on our weekly police bulletin about how the Police Department handles reports of recycling theft.]
Concerning your question about our procedures for addressing recycling theft within Albany: Albany Municipal Code section 15-3 is our anti-scavenger ordinance, and violations may be cited as infractions of the local code. The fine structure is as follows:
- First violation: $100
- Second violation (within any twelve month period): $200
- Third violation (within any twelve month period): $500
Albany Police officers have been instructed to issue warnings and/or citations for these offenses with the following conditions: It is our policy to issue at least one warning prior to issuing a citation, to only cite for offenses committed in the officer’s presence, and when practical, to always offer the option of a private-person-issued citation if needed (this would typically be the person who witnessed the theft and called police).
Coincidental with your inquiry, our local procedures are being reviewed to ensure we are doing everything we can to discourage this behavior, however, the “rules of engagement” concerning police authority in these matters is set by state law.
In its most basic form, the public offense must have been committed in the officer’s presence. What this means in essence is that the officer should see the offense occur before issuing a citation—simply having a suspicion is not enough.
That would be akin to me issuing you a ticket for speeding because someone tells me you were speeding (but I didn’t actually see you commit the offense). In these cases, if the officer doesn't witness the theft, but you do, you may request the officer assist you in issuing a citation for the theft. This would also apply to private property trespass violations that are often reported in conjunction with recycling theft.
Some residents in our community allow scavengers to remove items from their recycling bins (although this is not allowed under the provisions of the ordinance) further complicating our enforcement effort.
As a result, enforcement of the anti-scavenging ordinance is largely "complaint driven." All of the above conditions result in a lot of warnings for these violations.
Click the "Keep me posted" button below for alerts when we write about this topic.