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Police Crack Down on ‘Scavenging Kingpin’ : Crime: Roger Bird, who makes a living from recycling, is cited and charged after allegedly taking from city bins.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A man who allegedly earned $800 to $1,200 a week by taking newspapers from curbside recycling bins in the San Fernando Valley was cited Monday by a new anti-scavenging police patrol unit.

Roger Bird, 43, of Sun Valley, was cited Monday morning and charged with a misdemeanor offense as he was allegedly seen loading his blue Ford van with newspapers from yellow recycling bins in Northridge, according to police.

Officers described Bird as the “scavenging kingpin of the Valley.” In recent months, police said license plate numbers jotted down by complaining citizens have tied Bird to more than 50 incidents of scavenging in the West Valley alone.

If convicted, he faces up to a $500 fine and six months in jail.

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Los Angeles Police Sgt. Joel Price said Bird has been warned in the past about scavenging but has insisted that he received permission from residents to take their newspapers.

Price said Bird told him that he earns $800 to $1,200 a week by selling the newspapers to recycling firms that pay $56 per ton, and that the money is his sole income. Bird admitted that he can sometimes load up to three tons of newspapers into his van in a few hours.

Bird was cited by a special early morning police patrol that targets the growing plethora of scavengers who are taking an estimated $2 million in recyclables annually from the city-run recycling program.

The unit--made up of patrol officers working overtime--is paid for out of a $64,000 budget allocated in March by the city’s Bureau of Sanitation. The police on the special scavenging unit have stopped more than 400 people and have cited more than 100 suspected scavengers, according to police.

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The program appears to be working. In June, Councilwoman Laura Chick, who represents the West Valley and initiated the special scavenging unit, said the amount of recyclables collected through the city’s recycling program increased by 28% since the patrols began. The increase results in an additional $8,000 per month in revenue, she said.

But Chick said her office still gets 50 to 60 complains a week about scavengers. Many residents threaten to quit participating in the city’s curbside recycling program unless the city can put a halt to the scavenging, she said.

“They are calling out of frustration and anger,” she said.

The recyclables collected by the city, including aluminum cans, bottles, newspapers and other items, are sold to a recycling firm. The proceeds, which fluctuate regularly based on the market price for the materials, are used to fund the recycling program. Because of the high price of newsprint, newspapers bring in the highest amount of revenues to the city, according to city officials.


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