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Environmental Services

What Is Scavenging and How Can I Report It?

Photo of Man Scavenging Through Trash Bin

Scavenging is the act of unauthorized persons going through recycling or refuse containers, whether the containers are located on City or private property.

Like illegal dumping, scavenging is a crime in San Diego, and it is taken very seriously by the City.

Every year, scavengers steal thousands of dollars in recyclables from the City's curbside program, which makes the program less cost efficient and ultimately costs taxpayers. To help keep scavengers from taking your recyclables, place your container out at 6 a.m., the morning just before collection rather than the night before.

To help stop this crime, the City encourages anyone who encounters a scavenging incident that has already taken place to report it. If you observe someone scavenging, please take down the following information:

  • Date, time and location of incident
  • Description of vehicle and license plate number
  • Description of person(s) scavenging
  • What items/materials were being scavenged
  • Your name and phone number (optional)

Report the information to the following agencies:

To report scavenging while it is occurring, please contact the San Diego Police Department 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at the non-emergency number 619-531-2000.  If there is a delay in reporting and the scavenger is no longer in the area, please contact your local substation.

With adequate information and an eyewitness who is willing to testify, the City can and will pursue prosecution.

No Scavenging Flyer (PDF)