Scavengers looking through trash for aluminum are receiving police citations carrying $240 fines. But some officials and activists are outraged, saying Friday that recycling is a prime source of income for the homeless.
"I think the whole matter is a preposterous example of misapplied resources," Councilman Jerry Bartos said."We've got crack dealers. We've got strip joints. We've got people stealing the aluminum off bridges," he said. "And we're chasing around poor people who, frankly, are keeping the streets clean."
"Heads will roll on this one, brother," said Councilman Al Lipscomb, who protested the ticketing in a letter Friday to City Manager Jan Hart.
In recent weeks, about 10 people have received tickets for violating the city code that prohibits illegal collection of trash. Violations, mainly by homeless people searching for recyclable materials, were largely ignored before.
But police increased enforcement after businesses complained about scavengers, spokesman Sgt. Jim Chandler said.
"Businesses complain to the City Council, and they pass that complaint to police, and we act on it," Chandler said.
"We don't have our patrol officers looking for them," he said. "Obviously there are more important things for them to do."
James Poole, a homeless man, said two of his friends were ticketed and feel harassed. "I pick up cans to make a living. I don't rob or steal," Poole said.