Investigations of plastic theft by a Los Angeles County sheriff's department task force may grind to a halt in February without additional public or private funding.
“Funding is starting to run out,” said Kevin Radecki, city manager for City of Industry, Calif.
“It has been a great program, and they have done a lot of good work,” Radecki said in a recent telephone interview.
For the one-year trial program, the City Council had committed $1.2 million to the sheriff's plastic industrial theft task force for the 12 months that ended Aug. 31.
Through prudent cost control, the five-person task force has stretched the city funds and about $36,000 in corporate contributions to continue operations at least through January.
“We have been operating on the surplus,” said task force supervisor Sgt. Nabeel Mitry, who is based in the sheriff's station in Industry, an LA suburb.
Dallas-based Dean Foods Co. donated $10,000 recently. The company's Fresh Dairy Direct division has 77 domestic manufacturing and distribution facilities, including Southern California sites in Industry and Buena Park.
For the 14 months ended Oct. 31, the task force has recovered intact and granulated plastic products with a value of more than $6.5 million, Mitry said. Investigations led to dozens of arrests, usually for felonies, and the closure of numerous storage and grinding sites.
Martha Carrillo, an inspector with the U.S. Postal Service in Pasadena, Calif., functions as a dedicated task force liaison. “She gives us intel” and often accompanies task force members during investigations, Mitry said.
Recent news coverage, including a Nov. 26 Los Angeles Times article and a Plastics News blog item, has raised the program's visibility. Subsequently, “at least seven articles” have appeared in other publications including the San Francisco Chronicle, Mitry said.
“News travels. I find it amazing,” he said. Mitry was referring to a news inquiry from a television network with possible interest in reporting on the subject.
Typically, the task force investigates thefts from loading docks behind groceries, pizza shops, bakeries, restaurants, beverage companies or shipping/receiving stores. Recoveries can involve intact or granulated plastic pallets, trays, shelves, baskets, milk crates or collapsible totes that have been stolen.