How the FBI Conducts a Trash Cover in the Early 1990s


This is taken from Killer Spy, by Peter Maas 1995

Many FBI agents had good success going through someone’s trash, but still not everyone is convinced that it is very effective in recovering crucial evidence for a case. So, every case is different and you need to decide first if you want to conduct the mission. Then, when you decide to do it, you want to get approval from your supervisors.

Trash covering is a sophisticated process. It takes Special Response Teams who are properly trained to be successful. Usually they can be found from volunteers from the G’s. They need to be equipped with safety coveralls, tongs, surgeon gloves, breathings masks.

There are standards to follow in general evidence collection that need to be learned. For example, you should put anything wet in a plastic bag as it can get moldy.

You need to case the business or residence to be alert for potential witnesses. Some neighbors are more dicey than others. The Neighborhood Watch programs can be difficult to deal with. The FBI doesn’t want to divulge any information about its intention to cover trash. The fewer people who know, the better.

What are some things you can do to sweep a neighborhood? You need to learn when the pickup times are. Learn when the trash is normally taken out. Figure out where the trash is normally kept before it’s taken to the curb. For example, it could be on the garage side of the house on the other side of the fence.

You want to find out everyone’s routine in the neighborhood. What are their activities at nigh? Spend a few nights learning, particularly around trash pickup times what is going on. One optional test is to determine if there are any stray dogs around, by walking a dog of your own through the neighborhood.

Next you want to have a team of about 4 people to practice making the trash pickup. You want to do it correctly and do it fast. Because many garbage cans are a standard style, you want to practice with that one. Where do you get one? You can’t just walk up to the sanitation department and request one. Instead, you report your garbage can missing at the house you are using to case the suspect with. The garbage department will bring out another can the next day.

You want to use a black van that is hard to see at night. It should take about 10 seconds to grab the can and go. The best times to switch out garbage cans is between 2 am and 3:30am. Take pictures of the garbage that you grab, so you know how it looked on top and doesn’t look any different when you return it.

If any neighbors do see you, then quickly explain to them that you are the FIB and that you are doing something official.

You need to designate a good spot to go to with the suspects trash. Drive straight there and begin immediately separating out the trash. Make sure the area you bring the trash to is clear and not far to travel to.

Make sure to use a chase car behind the black van when picking up the suspects trash. You can use two people in the chase car.

Be prepared to deal with foul trash when going through it. Separate out the wet from the dry. You want to look for helpful paper records that can build up your case: financial assets, mutual fund receipts, stock buys, bank envelopes, anything.

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