Khouzam agrees that taking discarded stuff from the alley is legal

Published March 6, 2016 by justicewg

Xmas TrashmanI wanted to have a definitive answer on the issue of taking discarded stuff from the alley. Officer Cohill was not really clear on how this works as far as ownership of discards and what the police would do when they saw a resident taking something from the alley. The matter was referred to City Attorney Khouzam, and she gave me the final word on how the matter will be dealt with in Grandview.


Mr. Wagner:

The police department forwarded me your inquiry regarding the city’s trash removal ordinances, and the regulation to determine when permits should be issued.  That regulation was to permit the city to ensure safety and reduce theft/unauthorized removal of materials, particularly at a time when metals were being stolen and turned in to fabricators and recyclers for cash. 

The City’s ordinances provide for authorized removal by city personnel of items placed in collection bins or bags, or otherwise bundled and left in the right of way where bins and bags are placed.  As indicated by the year of passage and the reference in the first line, Codified Ordinance 955.06 was intended to prohibit hauling companies from engaging in the business of collecting, hauling or transporting waste (i.e., doing so for a fee), since the city provides this service at no additional charge to residents.  The ordinance addresses persons in the business of” performing such services.  This provision should not be read as an invitation to trespass onto residents’ private property.  When in doubt, it is recommended that a homeowner be asked whether he/she actually intended for item(s) left at the curb to be repurposed by others.

Taking your example, if a neighbor leaves a picture frame or a piece of furniture on the right of way, a person not “in the business” of waste removal can take what is in the right of way, other than bins, bags, or bundles (city has exclusive province to do this).  If the person removing the frame or furniture happens to be driving a truck that would suggest he or she is in the business of hauling, then the city has the ability to act on this accordingly.  Of course, as you know, the city provides an annual free hauling week in approximately mid-May, when it removes far more than bins, bags, or bundles. 

The city has not initiated criminal actions against residents who remove items left at the curb by homeowners.  However, the city has had occasion to intercept unauthorized persons attempting to remove property from lawns, property that was not intended for discard or removal, or persons with trucks full of “salvaged” goods.  As a result of the police department’s and our residents’ vigilance in that respect, theft and unauthorized removal have declined. 

Thank you for your inquiry, and I trust this will address your concern.

Joëlle Khouzam, City Attorney

Ms Khouzam;

Thanks for the answers to my questions about removal of materials from alleys set out for the trash.

The one questions I would like clarified is the distinction you made between picking up material with a truck, and the possible use of a car or van. If I saw a large set of shelves set out by my neighbors down the street, I would not have the strength to carry it back to my house, so I would want to use my van to transport it.

You said that “If the person removing the frame or furniture happens to be driving a truck that would suggest he or she is in the business of hauling, then the city has the ability to act on this accordingly.”

Would the use of my van also be considered a business vehicle, and then would be used to charge me with a violation of Ordinance 955.06? Is the kind of vehicle used while moving items from the alley what defines a violation of the law?

Or is it the stated use of the items that are removed? If I say to any police officer who stopped me. “I am removing this item for my own personal use, and have no business or financial gain in taking it, I’m
doing it for my hobby”.

Is a statement of non-commercial use all that is needed to remain in compliance with Ordinance 955.06? – JW

I used the word “truck” by way of illustration.  If a police officer has reason to believe a business is being conducted by someone picking up curb items, whether the person is driving a truck, car, or SUV, I am confident he or she will intelligently inquire and discern whether the person is just repurposing shelves for their own use or if it’s someone who’s in it for commercial gain.  The person’s intent, not type of vehicle, governs whether further action is warranted.

Just for peace of mind, please know that our officers do not make a practice of questioning residents who stop when a neighbor has set out furniture or other items on the curb.  The matters that have resulted in charges typically involve people who are hauling anything and everything left outside, even when it’s not in the right of way and particularly metal items.

Joëlle Khouzam

Thanks to City Attorney Khouzam for the definitive word on the issue. I’m sure that most Grandview residents don’t really care about the rules and will continue to pick up the neighbor’s picture frame from the alley without knowing anything about the laws. Those who care enough to look into it will now know that you can’t get a ticket in the unlikely event a cop was watching you in your alley.

Previously –

The standard arguments against taking stuff from alleys

Who owns the trash in alleys?


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