HAMMOND | Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. defended Hammond's new ban on scavenging at a recent city event, explaining he signed the ordinance to help the Police Department.
Speaking at a Mayor's Night Out, McDermott said he knows through his experience as mayor that scrapping led to problems in the city.
"The people that are doing the burglaries are posing as scavengers, which makes it hard for the Police Department," McDermott said. "When (police) see a car in the alley and they have a valid scavenger's license, they could be actually scavenging or they could be casing your backyard."
McDermott admitted the controversy surrounding the ordinance came as a surprise. The City Council adopted the ordinance earlier this summer by a 5-3 vote.
“Some of the ordinances that we sign that you think are going to be controversial turn out not to be controversial at all,” McDermott said, “and some of the ordinances that we sign that we think are no-brainers just blow up.
“This is one that caught me off guard, I have to say. I was shocked at the level of vitriol that was directed at us. I was surprised at how close it was on the council.”
After the ordinance was approved, the School City of Hammond robotics team lost a longtime sponsor because of the financial impact the business claims it will incur due to the ban.
Under the ordinance, scavenging is no longer allowed in city streets and alleys. The more than 30 scrappers currently licensed with the city can continue the activity through the end of the year.
Opponents of the ban claimed it would mean a loss of income for scrappers that told council members they used the proceeds to support their families.
Hammond Police Chief Brian Miller, a main proponent of the ban, recalled a time when officers responded to a call of suspicious activity and discovered the person scavenging was fresh out of jail for burglary.
“Now no one will have a license,” Miller said.