TONAWANDA, N.Y. (WIVB) - Scavenging, dumpster diving, or garbage picking - call it what you want, but did you know it's illegal? It's also stealing, especially recyclables that towns can turn into a profit.
Don DalFonso calls himself a "scrapper." He goes around on garbage pickup day and grabs whatever scrap metal he can, that is set out on the curb, stuffs it in his rusty old van and sells it to a scrapyard. That is, except in the Town of Tonawanda, where his scrapping has got him in a scrape with the law.
"And they harass me, discriminate against me, threaten to arrest me. It's silly. It's just like, there's ordinances for jaywalking and there's probably ordinances for walking on the wrong side of the sidewalk, and stepping on people's lawns," DalFonso said.
So far, DalFonso has been issued dozens of appearance tickets, accusing him of interfering with the town's solid waste collection, but he claims he is being singled out.
"They say, 'Well, we don't want you in the town.' And I keep asking them, 'Why?' And they say, 'You don't live in the town.' I say, 'Others don't live in the town, either.' I thought it was America," DalFonso said.
But the law is the law. Although DalFonso says he goes into Buffalo, and Cheektowaga, and Amherst to collect scraps and he doesn't get hassled. Wednesday night, he pleaded not guilty in court. He and his attorney are now looking into whether the law is constitutional in New York State.
Attorney Michael Seibert said, "We're checking to see if it's been challenged in any other part of the state, and what the outcome of that challenge was. If those appeals were accepted by a higher court, that means there's a legal issue here."
Local officials point out "scrapping" is illegal because towns and cities actually get paid for recycling, instead of paying a landfill to take their solid waste. So, in a way, DalFonso is competing with Tonawanda for recyclable metals.
DalFonso said, "Most people don't care, once they put it out by the curb, they could care less who the hell gets it, or who takes it, or whatever they do with it."
William Harris, who happened to be in court Wednesday, also collects recyclables and says it's an honest way to earn extra money.
"Scrap metal is a legal business, especially in the City of Buffalo," Harris said. "You're not hurting nobody, throwing it in the back of a truck. It's better than going out and committing a crime. You know, robbing a business, burglarizing a house."
And DalFonso says he feels he's being singled out.
"I talk to other scrappers, and I ask them, 'Are you being threatened and harassed?' And they look at me and say, 'No.' They drive past me all the time, and they just keep going. They don't stop me, or say nothing. No matter what their decision is, I still think it's wrong and it's unconstitutional that they can do it, and you cannot do it," DalFonso said.
At least two other suburbs have ordinances that prohibit garbage picking - Cheektowaga and Amherst. DalFonso's case is adjourned until November 28, when he'll either challenge Tonawanda's law or simply pay the $50 fine.
Reverend Roy Harriger returned to court Wednesday night. The pastor is facing charges of molesting children.
Some of the members of his assembly refuse to believe the allegations against him. About eight members of the Community Fellowship …
In an effort to combat childhood obesity, a local school district is now banning a popular sweet treat.
Twenty-two-year-old Yaron Bernstein was last seen leaving a friend's apartment in Philadelphia three weeks ago. Bernstein has ties in Buffalo as well as Pittsburgh, Miami and New Jersey.
A sex offender has been arrested after he allegedly showed indecent material to a child under the age of 16.
Common Core, a new wave of educational standards now being implemented across the country, is causing controversy across the nation, and took center stage in Jamestown Wednesday evening.
Fewer families in the Northtowns will go hungry thanks to some local firefighters and the people they serve.