Business owner, ticketed grandfather and grandson at odds over what is trash

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HIGH POINT, N.C. -- A disagreement over what one grandfather and his grandson thought was trash could cost them about $300 a piece.

Dillon Kearns, 18, and his grandpa regularly search the dumpsters near their home in Archdale.  They do it to supplant the elder man’s Social Security checks and the money he makes from his tree stumping.

“We were just looking through dumpsters to get some scrap metal so we can get some extra money,” said Kearns.

But on Sunday, they went to IV-S Metal Stamping in High Point. They were stopped by Archdale Police and asked to explain why they had scrap metal in their vehicle. Kearns said the Archdale officers told him they would let him go but instead called High Point police officers who in turn brought in the owner.

Kearns and his grandfather were both ticketed for larceny and trespassing for taking the metal from the property.

It’s the first time since searching dumpsters over the last year that the two have been charged with breaking the law. He said the pair sometimes even ask business owners who are present if they mind and they don’t.

“I realize that [it is illegal] but we're getting it out of dumpster,” said Kearns. “He's throwing it away so it should be trash right?”

Nelson Smith, owner of IV-S Metal, said the metal still holds quite a lot of value to his company.

What Kearns called dumpsters; Smith said are in fact specialized containers used to collect tens of thousands of scrap metal at a time. When the container is full a company hauls away the entire lot and Smith profits off the scraps.

“We have a contract with a company to pick this container up once it reaches 30,000 pounds and there's no reason that anybody would have any thoughts about being in that container taking steel out,” said Smith.

Smith also points out that the containers were on his property and no one but employees and customers should be on site without permission.

Smith said he’s invested heavily to catch and prosecute metal thieves because it’s cost his business, which has been in the Piedmont Triad since 1988, heavily in the past.

“I've got signs up saying you're on camera and they'll steal metal right in sight of that sign,” said Smith.

Smith said some of the scrap metal generated by the business is also used to help metal shops at area high schools. Smith said he has always been a proponent of helping students learn a trade and giving them a job.

“I'm a firm believer that you have to work for a living,” said Smith.