Nonprofit alleges retaliation for reporting illegal recyclers

Mike Koozmin/The S.F. ExaminerMultiple burglaries: The Civic Center Community Benefit District offices have been burglarized twice in recent weeks; a computer and a desk were among the items reported stolen.

Scavengers who illegally collect bottles and cans from recycling bins in San Francisco are being blamed for recent window-smashing burglaries at the Civic Center Community Benefit District offices on Van Ness Avenue.

Jim Haas, a board member for the district, a nonprofit tasked with making the area safer and cleaner, believes the break-ins are payback for his organization’s recent efforts to crack down on the seedy recycling trade and the mess it leaves behind.

On Saturday morning, Haas said, thieves smashed the window of the district’s office at 234 Van Ness Ave. and stole a desk and computer.

“None of the other offices in the building were disturbed,” he said.

Police spokesman Officer Gordon Shyy said he had “no information” that the burglary was retaliatory, but he did confirm that an alarm alerted police to the break-in at 2:17 a.m.

No suspects were found after a search of the premises, Shyy said, and an employee reported the items that were missing.

In recent months, the district has been battling the bottle-and-can trading activity in the alley next to its office, Haas said. For “many months,” he said, people have sold the recyclables they pilfer from bins at homes and businesses to shady characters in shoddy trucks. The truckers pay for the recyclables, then haul them to centers for resale.

The thefts reportedly contribute to garbage-rate increases in The City. The bins are the property of Recology. The less recycling material the company nets from its trash collection, the higher the cost to ratepayers.

Also, the thieves make a mess, Haas said.

To combat the problem, the district recently contacted the Mayor’s Office and Police Department Chief Greg Suhr. As a result, Haas said, a crackdown has led to fewer trucks in the area.

“Since then our offices have been broken in to twice, with no other offices in the building disturbed,” Haas said. “We feel we have experienced retribution from the truck guys.”

Recyclables reportedly become Recology’s property as soon as the bins are placed on the street to be picked up.
“Suspects will be cited if caught by police,” Shyy said.

maldax@sfexaminer.com

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