Johnston mayor says trash picking costing town thousands

The mayor in Johnston says trash pickers collecting metal out of residents' trash bags is costing the town thousands of dollars.

It's trash day in Johnston.

Some residents said it's not just the trash man who stops, they also get pickers.

"Usually I see two or three of them in here per week. When they pick through it they leave it a mess. They kind of scatter it," said Johnston resident Bob Pingitore.

But resident Paul Hassell knows what's going on.

"I kind of feel bad for them ... it's the only way some of them can earn dollars to buy something to eat," he said.

Some pickers are looking for discarded furniture. Others are rummaging through trash bags trying to find recyclables.

But in Johnston, and several other Rhode Island towns, picking through other people's trash is not only against the law, it's actually stealing.

Once your trash hits the curb, it becomes the town's property and it's illegal to pick through.

Johnston Mayor Joseph Polisena said recyclables, especially metal, put tens of thousands of dollars in the town's coffers and the pickers are soiling the spoils.

"We're being robbed. We're being robbed. People might say, 'Oh, it's nickels and dimes. Leave them alone.' We'll, they're stealing from the taxpayers," he said.

Polisena suspects Johnston is losing $10,000.

"Thousands add up to hundreds of thousands and that adds up to millions. It just has to stop," he said.

After recent complaints, Johnston police are now enforcing the ordinance banning picking. Officers cited their first picker last week and are asking the public to help.

"Don't confront them. Just get the number plate and notify police," Polisena said.

While some don't like to see pickers, only a few residents said they are willing to report the crime.