Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Stealing Yesterday's News

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Stealing Yesterday's News

Article excerpt

As prices soar, old newspapers disappear from curbside, and New York City prosecutes self-appointed recyclers as thieves

FORGET ABOUT DIAMONDS.

Soaring prices have made discarded newspapers a new target for theft in New York, city officials say.

The New York City Department of Sanitation has arrested three men for allegedly swooping ahead of city crews and stealing newspaper bundles left at curbside for recycling.

The arrests, in two incidents, were the first under a new policy of prosecuting recycling thieves under criminal statutes. After a raft of thefts broke out a couple of months ago, the city realized that civil fines were not deterring pilferers, so it began charging them with theft, according to sanitation spokesman Lucian Chalfen.

There was no estimate on how many tons of paper had been lifted, but Chalfen said thefts started to rise when prices shot up for old newspapers and magazines.

Now, people who steal material left for recycling are no longer hit with civil fines of $50 to $250 for obstruction of sanitation operations. Instead, they face misdemeanor charges of petty larceny and possession of stolen property, and up to a year in jail and a fine for each conviction.

The law says that, once left at the curb for recycling, newspapers, magazines, bottles and cans become city property, Chalfen said.

So far, Demetrio Paredes of Union City, N.J., was arrested and charged with stealing a ton of paper from the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

And, early in the morning on Jan. 11, sanitation police arrested two Long Island men, David Bailey of Levitown and Paul Lutwin of North Valley Stream, and charged them with stealing two tons of discarded paper. Police said the men also had receipts showing they had already sold nearly five tons of paper to a recycler, Chalfen said.

Violators are fingerprinted and booked, and can have their trucks impounded.

"It's costing us on both sides," Chalfen said. "We are being deprived of revenue from delivering this to recyclers, and we are sending dedicated men and trucks to pick up the material."

Chalfen, the assistant sanitation commissioner in charge of public affairs, blames a $60 to $80 swing in the past few months in the price that recyclers pay for old newspapers and magazines. This means that instead of paying $20 a ton to get rid of the stuff, as the city used to do, it is now being paid $60 a ton for old newspapers and magazines. …

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