Something odd happened last night. I took our puppy Midnight out front at about 12:30 a.m. so she could do her final business of the night and we were both startled to see two people picking through our neighbors garbage.
There were two guys riding around on bikes that had what appeared to be home-made trailers attached to them. They were stopping at every house to go through the garbage.
Now I don’t mind if someone takes something that I’ve set out that we no longer plan to use. Maybe a broken chair that someone thinks they can repair, an old TV or something like that, certainly not my Rimowa. In fact when I’ve put items like that out I’m usually glad someone came by and took it because I’m pretty sure the garbage men wouldn’t take some of the things we’ve put out.
These guys weren’t just looking for furniture, appliances or other loose items by the garbage though. They were actually opening up garbage cans or garbage bags and going through them.
When I first saw the two curbside pickers I was about to go outside with Midnight but I pulled her back and waited hoping they’d go away. Midnight must have realized I didn’t trust the two young men and she watched them from the screen door and let out low rumbling growls.
They didn’t go away, so I did end up taking Midnight out to the front lawn while they were still making their way through various neighbors garbage.
I kept an eye on them while Midnight did her business. She kept an eye on them too – still letting out growls and quite barks. Figures, I actually told her to speak – which to her means bark – and she only made sounds I could hear. I really did want her to bark and make them a bit nervous so they’d go away. This from a dog that barks when you stop playing with her or when she thinks she isn’t getting enough attention. Go figure!
The two guys were young. I had though they were older teens, but now I think they might have been in their early 20’s. They made me nervous. I had a feeling they were up to no good. I mean, I’ve seen people curbside shopping before and they stop, glance around to see if there’s anything interesting and move on.
These guys were picking through the garbage. What did they hope to find?
It occurred to me that they might be looking for credit card slips, receipts or other papers that might enable them to steal a persons identity.
Chris had just gone to bed so I went in to tell him about the two guys. He got up and came out with me to see if we could still see them but they’d taken off by then. Maybe someone further down the street had better luck at spooking them or perhaps told them off (as I should have). He thought it was strange too and told me that if I saw them again to wake him up.
I did peek out a while later and I notice a police car sitting down the street on a corner. It drove off after a while and I think I saw the same police car crossing further down the side street by the park. Perhaps the garbage pickers made one of my neighbors nervous or suspicious too and they called the police?
I was curious as to whether it’s even legal in Toronto to pick through garbage or to pick up items at the curbside. So I went looking and I found a pdf file on the City of Toronto website that lists Toronto garbage bylaws.
Prohibited Acts; Charging Expenses Against Property; Penalties
§ 844-20. Prohibited acts.
No person shall:
C. Pick over, interfere with, disturb, remove or scatter any waste set out for collection
unless authorized to do so by the Commissioner;
So there you have it. It illegal to pick over curbside garbage in Toronto.
As for the identity theft issue … I wasn’t worried about that as far as our garbage is concerned. We keep our receipts, credit card slips and identifying papers and when we have enough stored up we burn them.
I still don’t like the idea of someone going through our garbage though. Yes we’re throwing it out, but it’s in front of our house. I’d think that you can tell a lot about a person or family by looking through their garbage, so as long as it’s still in front of my house it can identify us or our habits.
We did have a garbage bag stolen once. It happened shortly after we moved into our house. The only reason I know a bag was missing is because Chris accidentally threw out his partial plate (he’s missing a front tooth)! We’d been busy renovating for weeks and we were both very tired. Chris must have taken out his partial plate when we had dinner and then threw it out with the garbage.
The next day as he got ready for work he couldn’t find his tooth. I’d already gone to work. He called me frantically telling me that he thought he might have thrown it in the garbage, but when he looked outside one of our garbage bags was missing!
Figures, the only time we accidentally throw out something important and our garbage bag is stolen.
At the time I suspected it might have been one of our nosy neighbors. Perhaps trying to find out more about the new neighbors? Now though, after seeing the garbage pickers I wonder if it might have been someone like I saw last night.
Have you had anything weird like that happen? Notice people going through garbage in your area a little too enthusiastically?