Houston Officials Decriminalize So-Called ‘Dumpster Diving’

The City of Houston passed a new rule that will decriminalize fishing items out of public garbage cans. The so-called "dumpster diving ordinance" allows homeless people to rummage in the trash without fear of citations or arrest.

The amendment is a result of an incident earlier this year in which a Houston police officer ticketed a homeless man for digging through a trash can Downtown.

The incident got national media attention and prompted city council members to narrowly pass an amendment to the rarely
enforced rules regarding disturbing the contents of a trash can.

Councilmember Oliver Pennington was one of seven members who voted against the rule change.
Pennington surprised some at city hall when he referred to the bombs placed inside garbage cans at the Boston Marathon and
said something similar could now happen in Houston.

“And I think it is good for the police to be able to keep people out of trash cans. There are health issues, there are safety issues, there are all kinds of reasons emphasized by what happened in Boston that the police ought to have some jurisdiction.”

It’s still against the rules to trespass on private property to get to a trash can and littering is also punishable, but it’s now permissable to search through and remove items from public trash containers.


Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Executive Producer for News

Laurie Johnson leads daily news coverage for HPM. She helps reporters craft and sharpen their stories on tight deadlines, with the aim of getting the most relevant and current information into local newscasts. Laurie is a native Houstonian who started her career at Houston Public Media in 2002. She is...

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