‘Alley Trolls’ Illegally Taking Garbage In Mpls.

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The saying goes, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure and in this economy, that’s certainly true. People search for scrap to make a quick buck. But taking trash is against Minneapolis city ordinance and neighbors want to stop these so-called Alley Trawlers.

“They’ll usually stop and dig through the trash a little bit,” said Minneapolis resident Stan Levitz.

His neighbor has seen them, too.

“On a routine basis there’s pickup trucks that come through the alleys, usually before garbage pick-up, looking for scraps,” said Minneapolis resident Ross Chavez.

Most search for metal or recycling; items they can turn in for fast cash. But that’s sometimes done in a hurry.

“They’ll make a mess up here and that’s not really cool,” said Levitz.

Neighbors say they try to be patient, knowing most of the time it’s the economy pushing families to rifle through garbage on the curb.

“I understand that people are trying to make money any way they can now, but it’s kind of a nuisance to the neighborhood,” said Chavez.

Some worry this small act could turn into a larger crime.

“I wish they’d leave the bins alone because people’s personal papers can be in there and that kind of thing. It just leaves too much open for the criminal element,” said Levitz.

Chavez also believes it could lead to more bold acts.

“We’ve had an increase in residential burglaries in this area as well,” said Chavez.

While there’s no way to tell if the two are connected, people here are calling for action.

People are only supposed to be in the alley if they have a reason, like walking to and from their home. Once a person sets out something in the trash, no one else can take it without the owner’s permission.

If you see something suspicious in Minneapolis, call police or dial 311, where you can get detailed information to find out if what you’re seeing is against city ord

  • Carole Rog

    You should NEVER dispose of personal papers in your trash unless they’ve been shredded!

    • Sharon

      I shred everything.

      • Josh

        I burn everything.


        • Alley Troll

          I send everything to the gov for safe keeping……

          • Alley Troll's Brother

            I sent everything to the government after I shred it.

    • Clay

      I shred and burn.

  • Jerry

    Once a person sets out something in the trash, no one else can take it without the owner’s permission.
    I would like to know the source of this statement, i’ve always understood the opposite was true, is that a Minneapolis ordinance?

    • Bill Cronin

      Kissinger took a reporter to court over this type of issue many years ago. The Supreme Court ruled that trash is abandon property, free for the taking.

    • Ed


      Did you bother to read the article?

      ” But taking trash is against Minneapolis city ordinance …”

      • Herb Moyer

        Doesn’t matter if it’s against their ordinance or not, this issue has already been decided in the Supreme Court. Once trash is set out, it becomes public domain. This is why cops are allowed to dig through suspects trash for evidence without a warrant.

        • Alley Troll's Brother

          Because the “Law” doesn’t apply to cops? Brings up a valid point, if i got a ticket doing it, I’d challenge the “Ordinance”.

      • Jerry

        Thanks Ed,
        I skipped that portion under the video link.

  • rocky

    isn’t it better that some STUFF gets recycled insted of thrown into landfills……

    • Ed

      Yes, it’s better that it be recycled, but it’s not better to have it strewn around the trash can.

  • pebbles

    If it is true that once a person sets out something in the trash, no one else can take it without the owner’s permission, why can the police take people’s trash for evidence with the understanding that once someone puts out their trash it’s up for anyone to take?

    • me

      Perhaps if you weren’t so insulting people might listen to what you have to say more.

    • The REAL, real Jake

      Actually you’re incorrect. Police DO NOT NEED A warrant to go dumpster diving if the trash is placed on the right of way because the Supreme Court determined long ago that the trash has been abandon therefore it is NO LONGER private property and therefore is not protected by 4th Amendment.

    • Tea bag lover

      Your = You’re. Idiot.

      • pitch_fork_ready

        Exactly WHO are you calling an IDIOT???

    • jackactionhero




    • Rick Libertarianski

      Learn English please

  • Rick

    I live in Minneapolis and personally, I like that people come take things. You can only dispose of a certain amount each week so if I have several items to throw out I’ll put the things out I think ohers will take first so I can get rid of everything without having save some for the next pickup.

    • Joe

      That’s the good old American attitude people should have Rick. Good for you! Happy Thanksgiving!

  • Howard

    On Sunday I helped by brother remove his old stove and put it in the ally. Not 5 min. later a guy ddrove up and asked if he could talke it. I even helped him put it in his truck When I told him just one burner was bad and other than that it worled fine you should have seen his eyes light up.

    We should all be thankful for the gifts we receive especially just before Thanksgiving.

    • Terry

      Nice post. pity there are not more like you.

    • Sbct

      We do the same thing here ! After cleaning out the basement or a room, we put the items at the end of the driveway with a free sign!

  • Ronald P. Leith

    This is an effort to propagate fascist ideology.

    • North


    • Nutria

      Urr funnneee

    • Ed

      You’re going to have to try harder if you want to propagate fascist ideology.

  • just sayin

    I just leave metal components outside of the trash bin so they know, “hey here I am”. Oh they love washing machines…

  • Crew Jobs

    The Supreme Court decision California v. Greenwod (1988) held that people have no right to privacy to anything they have put out in the garbage. As for needing a “reason” to be in an alley – a public way – “I am conducting my private, lawful business” is all the answer anyone needs for being on a public way.

    Anyone can legally go through and take trash that is placed on the street as refuse.

    • jackactionhero

      Not in a Minneapolis alley they can’t.

      Did you even read the article?

      It’s a city ordinance. You are not referencing anything that trumps the city ordinance.

      • Guest

        If that was true blacks wouldnt be allowed to ride buses in Alabama

      • Bradf

        Yeah. Don’t you idiots realize that Minneapolis can overrule the impotent Supreme Court of the USA? I mean. It’s just the Supreme Court that ruled that trash set out for collection was free for the taking. Who the He*ll do they think they are?

        • Ed

          The ruling was that the taking of trash by Police can be used as evidence and does not violate the 4th amendment. The city ordinance does not speak to police preclude the police from taking the trash, so the California v. Greenwood ruling doesn’t apply.
          Similarly, the ruling that police taking the trash as evidence is OK doesn’t imply that anyone can take the trash.

          • Low Down, dirty, and Poor

            I take anything I choose to take, you never know when evidence may come in handy. ;o)

      • Bob

        Supreme court decisions trump local laws. Read his comment. The decision applied to all US jurisdictions, not California only. I guess the winter doldrums have hit Minnesota early this year.

        • jackactionhero

          You’re wrong. Period.

          • Mike

            Oh! Oh! The FINAL word! Argued like a true 12 year old.

            • jackactionhero

              It isn’t worth arguing about. I’m not asking him. I’m telling him.

    • Ed

      If Minneapolis were in California this would be true. But since it isn’t, what’s the point of your post?

      • Alley Troll's Brother

        Funny…I didn’t know that supreme court rulings on constitutionality only applied to the State in which the cases were brought forth.

  • Jake

    So, MPLS, you would begrudge the poor even taking your cast off garbage..? Very generous of you.. Have a Happy Thanksgiving..

    • pickers are creapy

      People can begrudge whatever they want. They are not robots and your opinion is yours to keep we don’t have to live under your rules.

      This matters to people who have alleys more than people who have street pickup. When you get some dirty guy walking around just behind your home looking through your trash late at night maybe it will hit you why people don’t like this. If you have to listen to the creepy sounds of someone picking apart the trash you considered gone then maybe you will get the idea. There is just something inherently creepy about having a stranger go through your things, and they are your things until picked up.

      As for the sarcastic “happy thanksgiving” comment. No I don’t think this kind of thing is happy but “needs must when the devil drives” and we put will up with things we know are necessary when we have no better solution. That said because someone needs doesn’t mean we have to like how they satisfy that need.

      I actually do wish you a happy Thanksgiving but I also hope you never have to deal with this in your own backyard (literally).

      • Bob

        Your local ordinance is unconstitutional and can’t be enforced if someone decides to take the city to court. The Supreme Court of the US ruled that you do not own garbage after you set it out. I sympathize with your problem since I used to live with an alley in back of my house and dealt with the same issues and problems, but the constitution trumps local laws and local politicians. If the alley is owned by the city then it is public property and unless a person is violating a costitutional law they have the right to be on public property. You can’t ban them from alleys because it’s inconvenient. I hope the ACLU is reading this article because someone is going to get a huge payoff at the expense of the Minneapolis citizens thanks to the pandering politicians who try to enforce unconstitutional ordinances.

        • jackactionhero


          uhhhh, no. Sorry.

      • hola

        Learn how to spell…

        by the way, us “pickers” are the ones making money off your ignorance… thanks :)

        • Ronni V

          Learn grammar. It’s “we” pickers, D.A.

    • Roze

      Yea really. Happy Thanksgiving. This entire nation has become one big farce. Wow….

  • Not Rick Libertarianski

    @Rick Libertarianski Learn any language at all please. Here’s a hint “Bumper Sticker Quotes” is not a language. Why are you so afraid of someone elses’ spelling and/or grammar mistake anyway?

  • Bearcat

    I leave metal out by the curb before pickup day because I know that someone will take it.

  • Mikey

    This sort of thing goes on in most major cities in America for the last couple of years.
    These guys even have names and routes.
    “JohnnyMetal” comes by every Wednesday morning so you leave any metals you are throwing away, curbside.
    The 0bama economy has finally trickled down to the parochial outposts like Minneapolis..

  • gary-bg

    I live in a college town and I have a one bedroom apartment and almost everything in it was picked up off the street these college kids toss the best stuff out ,desks ,kitchen tables ,lamps whatever.The only thing I guess I have that I bought was this Laptop the computer chair the rest is almost new castoffs.We have unlimited pick up 3 times a year and the parade of vehicles looks like a black Friday sale lol.I’ve known people that actually farm these pick up times and make hundreds of dollars a month later via garage sales now I don’t agree with that part but if somebody doesn’t want it why can’t I have it.

    • jackactionhero

      Minneapolis city ordinance make this practice illegal in Minneapolis alleys. Did you even read the article?

      • jackactionheroSUCKS

        please shut up

      • Jim

        It’s good that Jackactionhero is around to continually police the comments by asking people over and over “did you even read the article?” we need more like him.

        • desert eagle .50

          He contributes nothing, as usual. Neither do you. Who read the article to you?

          • me

            He was being sarcastic. Jacka isn’t contributing to the discussion and Jim was pointing that out.

  • jack prong

    an ordnance to prevent “stealing garbage.” LAUGHABLE! only in the twin cities is that possible. i thought recycling was encouraged. if somebody takes items from the garbage, less garbage goes to the landfill, right?????

  • Go Junking

    It’s not so much about the taking of trash as it is about the trash left behind after the pickers have opened your bags and left things in the yard. No matter how much you may agree with reusing stuff (which I do) it is irritating when they litter your yard with the trash you put out to be hauled away. My suggestion is to adjust our trash schedule to follow the model I saw when I was in Germany. It had a “heavy” day scheduled for once a month for each neighborhood where large items could be put out. The result was that when “Junk Day” came people could go around with trailers and pick what they wanted before tha trash pick up came to a different neighborhood each week. “Junking” became worthwhile and some people got a used major appliance, a new desk, or got a nice rug. Because these things were expected to be picked up they did not get stuffed into a tiny bag smashed in with foul smelling garbage. It would not be hard for our garbage collectors to schedule and it would help us to re-use stuff more.

  • torchsinger

    Wow! You people in Minneapolis need to get over yourselves. In my area (much more affluent than this area appears to be), EVERYONE, rich and poor, picks things off of the curbside. I am always very happy when someone else can find a use for things that I don’t want.

    • RJMPLS

      AMEN! I agree

    • Dave's not here

      No way, we are way more affluent. Maybe you have more effluent?

  • Mike P

    this is a problem in ALL large cities. I live in Chicago now but, I was in Milwaukee for the previous 8 years. I have experienced this problem in both cities. I definitely have a few problems with allowing this to happen, many of which were discussed in this piece. I think it boils down to banding together as a neighborhood and letting the ‘trolls’ know they’re not welcome and are being watched.

  • Tim Temple

    This is going to be more and more important as the economy goes down. How far away from a trash can does an object have to be to be sacrosanct? The trash pickers are desperate. It is a real grey area. There’s great temptation to ‘bend’ the law when no one’s looking.

    We’ve now got pickup trucks with their old gardening trailers in tow picking up everything including refrigerators. Unfortunately, a neighbor left a lawn mower out near the house and it was gone the next morning.

  • Barry Soetoro

    Hope and change, baby!

  • Jay

    They should change the “comment” section to the “insult” section. Anonymity makes people say the darndest things.

  • Ronni v.

    This topic is debated frequently on NE Minneapolis Crime Watch (on Facebook). The City of Minneapolis Solid Waste will also send letters and attempt to fine individuals if residents send them the license plate numbers of vehicles seen in connection with recyclable theft. When these thieves steal recyclables, it’s stealing revenue from the city. Then guess what??? Once it’s no longer economically feasible for the city to collect recycling, your fees and/or property taxes go up to compensate. See the NE Minneapolis Crime Watch page on FB where the ordinances and details are specifically spelled out.

    • me

      To be clear, that is stealing recyclables out of marked recycling bins, not digging through the trash and removing from the trash bin.

  • UpintheOaks

    The article started off by talking about the difficult times that people are facing where many have to resort to “trolling” through other people’s discards. It ended with the commentator calling these people “the real garbage.” Newscasters with secure jobs are allowed to make human value judgements now. And speaking of value judgements, that top she is wearing could have been picked out of the trash.

    • Annalea

      I agree that this story is insensitive and presented in an ignorant manner. Really poorly done and WCCO should issue an apology for airing and then posting this story on their website. I don’t know how this story got passed the producers that should know better.

      • Joe

        This week I also saw a story out of Panama City Florida that said the mayor was introducing legislation to outlaw churches feeding the homeless. What is going on in this country?

  • Oscar Grouch

    Why does CBS Minnesota post this trash?

  • JAW

    What a stupid ordinance. I’m from MN but have lived in Chicago for 15 years. This kind of stuff goes on all the time. People throw out a lot of good things. It’s not hurting anybody.

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