Stranger spotted snooping through trash bins

HOUSTON - When we roll our garbage bin out into the street each week, we expect it to get picked up. What we might not expect is a stranger sifting through our garbage before it gets picked up.

Sunday night several residents of Knox Street in the Memorial area witnessed a man going through their garbage cans; word quickly spread on the neighborhood's Facebook page.

"It's a little disconcerting for sure," Rice Military resident Drew Roever said.  "I have seen people going through trash, particularly on recycling day. My neighbor's trash can across the street from me was knocked over this morning. I found that kind of weird."

It may be weird, but it's completely legal if your trash is on the sidewalk or in the street.

"I didn't know that," another resident, Van Williams, said. "I would assume it's kind of like your mailbox. You can't go through it. But I guess that's not the case."

"The law says that when you put your trash on the curb, you relinquish any expectation of privacy you have in that," Local 2 legal analyst Brian Wice said. "Unfortunately it's not a crime for some chucklehead to prowl through your garbage to see what he or she can find."

And that makes it easier for thieves to get ahold of personal information that could be used to steal your identity. That, of course, is a crime.

"If you have financial records, if you have billing records, invest in a shredder and use it," Wice said.  "Don't take the chance of having somebody rifle through your trash and finding something that's ultimately going to benefit them or hurt you."

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