Follow CBSDFW.COM: Facebook | Twitter

ROWLETT (CBSDFW.COM) – A new ordinance passed in Rowlett last Tuesday makes it a class C misdemeanor to sort through or remove items from someone’s curb – unless you’re hired by the city to remove trash/debris – or have the homeowner’s permission.

“We are serious about this. We are going to enforce this,” said Rowlett City Council member Debby Bobbitt.

She said there’s a need to protect not only areas damaged by the storms, but homes under construction, too.

“If we’re going to start building as much as we are, there’s going to be more incidents of looting,” said Bobbitt about construction/repair sites where tools and materials are often left out overnight.

Katherine Rinz is part of a group that patrols tornado-damaged areas in search of looters.

She said when suspected looters are spotted with a valuable item they often claim it was left curbside. “Bad guys use this as an excuse. They’ll always say ‘I found it on the curb.’ Even if they didn’t find it on the curb.”

She said homeowners often aren’t around hanging around their damaged property to dispute that claim.

“This just makes it easier for police to do their job and just be able to say ‘No, you can’t do this anymore,’ ” said Rinz.

Rinz also said it can also be emotional for tornado victims to watch strangers pick their trash.

“This may appear to just be rubbish, but that’s their lives. And to someone come touch it, for some homeowners it can be really distressing,” she said.

Residents who are still picking up the pieces left behind by the storms are grateful for the police support and that of their watchful neighborhood groups.

But one resident, Michelle Durbin, doesn’t mind if people pick up things in front of her parents’ damaged home.

“I like to reuse, recycle that kind of thing, so I don’t mind if people take from the curb because otherwise it’s just going to go to the landfill,” said Durbin. “No one’s gonna use it anyway.”

Anyone caught even rifling through debris piles, may receive a ticket for up to $500.

(©2016 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)