Despite several residents asking city leaders to reconsider, the Atascadero City Council on Tuesday night unanimously banned rummaging through other people's trash.
The law, known as the anti-scavenging ordinance, is slated to take effect Feb. 12 and makes Atascadero the only city in San Luis Obispo County with such an ordinance. Breaking the new rules would be punishable by a fine of no more than $250 per offense.
The council tentatively approved the new law last month after the Police Department said residents complained about people rummaging through trash bins for food and recyclables in Atascadero neighborhoods. Later, locals took to the issue on social media. The online debates pitted issues such as identity theft, litter and noise against humanitarian opinions about helping the impoverished.
Atascadero police Chief Jerel Haley told the City Council on Dec. 9 that the department did not have the exact number of complaints it received last year or whether complaints have increased since the previous year.
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Existing state law makes recyclables the property of authorized waste collectors once inside a bin for pickup, but police have depended on local garbage companies to report offenses and previously had no grounds to do so on their own.