Tuesday, February 24, 2015

California authorities crack down on cardboard theft

Jerry N. Villanueva,  Supervising Investigator with …

FONTANA, Calif. (AP) — Investigators wearing bulletproof vests sit in unmarked cars outside a Southern California recycling center, swapping license plate details over two-way radio before dawn.
A truck emerges, and they follow, hoping to learn where drivers pick up what to many looks like trash but turns out to be treasure: cardboard.

"It's big, big money — for somebody," said Steve Rivera, a senior investigator with the San Bernardino County District Attorney's office who has been conducting sunrise surveillance to track, educate and cite the culprits. "People don't recognize the fact that it's actually theft."

The crackdown in gritty, industrial suburbs east of Los Angeles aims to put a stop to a long-running practice that surges with cardboard prices and wallops trash company revenue — and could eventually push up trash collection rates for homeowners and shopkeepers.

New York City has battled cardboard theft for years. Local authorities elsewhere have cited those who swipe recyclables from waste hauler-provided bins, but the efforts haven't curtailed the theft of cardboard, which can net anywhere from $100 to $200 a ton.

When the economy booms, cardboard prices rise as manufacturers make more goods and need more packaging to sell them. Thieves are more brazen, and steal much more, when cardboard prices peak.

Waste haulers count on selling the recyclables they retrieve at the curb to offset the cost of collection, industry experts said.

"Our industry loses millions of dollars a year due to cardboard," said David Biderman, general counsel for the National Waste & Recycling Association. "One piece of cardboard by itself isn't valuable. But customers often generate substantial volumes of it."

The price of cardboard currently hovers around $100 a ton — much higher than during the 2008 recession but down from last year due to weaker demand from China, which is the largest export market for U.S. cardboard, Biderman said.

Under most state and local laws, people can collect cardboard left outside by a business or doled out by a shopkeeper for recycling. But they can't remove materials from recycling bins left out at the curb, which are considered property of the local waste hauling company, said Ronald Steiner, a professor at Chapman University law school in Orange County, who teaches case law related to privacy rights and garbage.

In San Bernardino County, officials are citing offenders with misdemeanor petty theft. So far, two citations have been issued, Rivera said.
Burrtec Waste Industries, which is working with county investigators, has seen the problem grow since a California law required many businesses to recycle, which has meant more trips for trash trucks but also more thieves, said Michael Arreguin, the company's vice president.

"We can't absorb it completely as a company," Arreguin said. "If it continues, the return value of the material has to go down, and therefore it increases the cost of that recycling container."

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Child Abduction Unit reunites three children with their father


The San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Child Abduction Unit (CAU) assisted in the successful reunification of three young children with their father Jan. 30, after their non-custodial, biological mother removed them from their home and fled California.

According to Senior Investigator Karen Cragg, who is assigned to the case, Cari Ann Gleason withheld the three children from their biological father, 57-year-old Augustus Scott, of Victorville, without his consent, since Nov. 2014. After a lengthy investigation, the children were located in the State of Florida.


On Jan. 30, 2015, investigators from the Child Abduction Unit traveled to Daytona Beach, Florida, where by prearrangement, 33-year-old Gleason voluntarily placed the children with the investigators for return to Scott in California. Upon their return to San Bernardino County the next day, the children were immediately reunited with their father. 

“No matter how many times we do this, it’s always gratifying to reunite a child, or, as in this case, children, with their legal parent or guardian and ensure that the court’s child custody orders are followed,” Cragg said. 

The work of the CAU focuses on protecting the custody rights of parents and legal guardians. On a routine basis, the CAU partners with courts and law enforcement throughout the United States to recover abducted children who are carried across state lines. In cases of international child abduction, the CAU implements the terms of the Hague Convention, an international treaty signed by more than 60 countries. 

For more information regarding the Child Abduction Unit, please click here.