A PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT
Public Awareness/Curbside Trash
by Diane Dodd
If you’re not careful, they’ll trash yours too!!
Many cites generally consider it legal for people to rummage through trash that has been left in a public area such as a curb awaiting pickup. Once the garbage is placed in such a place, the person has basically forfeited their ownership rights to the items, as the property is now in the public domain.
In the state of Louisiana you are also responsible for your trash even AFTER it leaves your property? Essentially, you are accountable for where your trash winds up until it makes it to the landfill. That means, even if the garbage man places it in to the back of the dump truck and it flies out, if it’s sitting on the side of the road and it can be proven that it is YOUR trash that is littering the road (i.e. your address on mail, shippers, etc.), YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE. YOU WILL BE CITED. But, did you know that if someone comes along, rummages through your trash, takes it and dumps it illegally that once again, if it can be proven it is YOUR trash – you WILL BE CITED?
This is legal, my friends! A random individual may rummage through your trash, take what he/she wishes to take and leave with it. It is ILLEGAL for them to dump the trash in anything other than an authorized dumping area, however, they won’t be cited if they aren’t seen doing it and IF there is any proof in the trash they took and dumped that it is YOURS, you will be cited for THEIR illegal actions.
I am taking the time to write this public service announcement because this very thing happened to me. I am a tax paying resident of Natchitoches, having recently moved here just a few short years ago after retiring from the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department at the rank of Sergeant. I, with my family, built our dream home and have entered the next chapter of our lives. Being a city resident, I pay for my trash to be picked up and removed off of my property. I was ridiculously confident that I was doing what was required of me. Placing my rubbish curbside after I diligently bagged, packaged, bundled and prepared my trash to be picked up by the city.
On the evening of Wednesday, February 19, 2020, I received a visit from two Officers with Wildlife & Fisheries. I was in the midst of receiving my 8U Basketball team to take them to a NSU Demons game. My family and some members of my basketball team were watching as I was ‘READ MY RIGHTS’, and only then, after I was read my rights was I told that I was being given a CITATION for ILLEGALLY dumping my trash in a remote area at the edge of town. You cannot even begin to fathom the humiliation I felt, in front of children who look up to me as a role model and In front of my own family, who has proudly watched me as I served my country as a First Responder with integrity and strong morals.
THIS CITATION DID NOT BELONG TO ME. But I stood there, humbly listening to the Officers who showed me they had ‘proof’ it was my trash – a shipping label off of an Amazon box. And because of this, it was my responsibility. In all of my years of life, I have NEVER been read my rights and all I could think of was “I now know how an innocent person must feel when they are read their rights”.
After a bit of discussion with the Officers, and the review of pictures that were taken at the dumpsite, my memory was triggered by items that I had prepared and left curbside on January 13, 2020, after cleaning of my storage unit and bagging a bunch of leaves. I told the officers that I had found it strange after placing my rubbish curbside, I witnessed two white males quickly stopping to collect my trash bags into the back of their truck. Apparently, they took my bags, rummaged through them, and then threw the bags along “Dirt” Blanchard Road. Regardless of the fact that I had personally witnessed someone removing trash from my property that were not city appointed individuals, and because I did not have a license plate or name of the individual, I was deemed the person at fault, guilty of a crime I did not commit and subsequently received the citation for legally placing my trash at the curbside.
The violation on my citation was: Revised Statute 30:2531.1- Gross littering prohibited. Section (2) “When litter disposed in violation of this Section is discovered to contain any article or articles, including but not limited to letters, bills, publications, or other writings, which display the name of a person or in any other manner indicate that the article belongs or belonged to such person, there shall be an inference that such person has violated this Section. Section (C) The person shall be cited for the offense by means of a citation, summons, or other means provided by law. Section (D.1) Whoever violates the provisions of this section shall upon first conviction, be fined not less that $500.00 nor more than $1000.00 and sentenced to serve eight hours of community service in a litter abatement work program as approved by the court.
Many of you are probably saying; “Just don’t throw anything away that would lead back to your residence, or with your name on it!” and I fully agree with you. This is of course a very important thing to do regardless of trash responsibility. The purpose of this public service announcement is to 1) Make the public aware of their legal responsibility when it comes to trash disposal, and 2) Encouragement to each of you to contact your local officials and begin the process of possibly changing laws.
We need to rally together as a community and find a way to make the ‘Trash Scavengers who turn in to Illegal Dumpers’ accountable. In my experience, there are two types of these scavengers, turned illegal dumpers. The first, being a refurbish/re-sale individual. The second, a drug addict looking for something to sell to get their “fix”. If we don’t find ways to fix this growing concern, we will continue to suffer at the hands of Officers who are performing their duties to cite individuals who ‘appear’ to be illegally dumping even if we are law abiding community members.
Lets work together to tackle this ever-growing issue: More and more cities are passing curbside trash laws in an attempt to tackle scavengers from rummaging through trash or removing trash from the premises. Steps a city might want to entertain:
1. Enact “Anti-Scavenging Laws” to keep people from stealing (and making money from) your discarded items.
2. If you want to give something away for free, place a sign on it Or place an ad on sites like Facebook Marketplace with a ‘curbside alert for free’.
3. If you see something in your neighbors’ trash you want, simply ask them if you can have it.
4. Make it a crime for anyone, other than City Refuse or law enforcement, to remove your bagged trash at the curbside.
I retired to this lovely small town to raise our 8-year-old son and to be closer to my mother. I’m known around town now as “Coach Dodd” because I’ve coached my son’s baseball, basketball, and soccer teams. I’m building a name for myself, and my family, in this community and maintaining my integrity is extremely important. I’m also doing this PSA because I don’t want what happened to me to happen to anyone else. It was deeply humiliating.
My name was trashed (metaphorically) don’t let them trash yours too.