Anne Jordan was a contributing editor to GOVERNING.E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Years ago--okay, decades--when I went off to college, I took along several plastic milk crates. They had served me well as storage units in my high-school locker and continued to play the same role in my dorm room. My best guess is that I bought them at a yard sale, but they were the real deal -- with the name of a Minnesota dairy embossed on the side -- not imitations purchased at Target. As a result of their durability and utility, I still have them to this day.
For these same reasons, milk crates have long been popular among homeless persons as a container for personal belongings. But in recent months, according to the L.A. Alternative , police in Los Angeles have begun a campaign to confiscate what they believe is stolen property and return it to their rightful owners. Although there have been few actual arrests, advocates for the homeless decry the crackdown as a "new tactic to criminalize homelessness...and a waste of resources."
The fact is that the dairy industry loses millions of dollars a year from stolen crates, but the blame can be spread widely, including a recent trend of thefts by bandits looking to cash in on high recycling prices for the petroleum-based resin used in the crates. Moreover, there's documentary evidence that LAPD officers are unceremoniously dumping the crates--and often their contents--rather than seeking to reunite them with distributors.
For a lighter take on the ubiquitous use of crates by suburbanites such as yours truly, click here to watch a five-minute short comedy, The Milk Crate Recovery Team, released last year by a Canadian film maker.
Written and compiled by staff writers and editors, GOVERNING View is an on-the-ground, and sometimes behind-the-scenes, look at the topics we're covering in print and online. From notes on what's up in statehouses, county courthouses and city halls, to encounters with people, places and things, GOVERNING View is a window into the side of state and local government you don't always see.