I was one of those people with 10/10 and max awareness and I certainly wasn't finding SE's or high value items once a month and I doubt it was "many users" who were getting anywhere near that when you maxed out at somewhere around one city find a day (with the occasional good day where you'd find 2 or three items) - they were still mostly crap.
The one thing I can agree on is that artifact finds have been significantly nerfed so the number of low-to-medium value item finds has diminished ratio-wise - is that perhaps what you're referring to?
I have to say that I agree with Manny I was one of those people (with 9 awareness/edu/and was in and out of an awareness company) that found SE's on what could be called a fairly regularly basis, every few months or so compared to some who have never found an SE. I agree that finds have always been random, and most are not worth anything however before RESPO I made a point of going everywhere in Torn via the city link on the sidebar and I was rewarded for that.
As I understand it now, the rule of thumb is supposed to be the more awareness you have means more items spawned and of better quality. So for all my eye strain and extra time taken to search the city I have found guns, guns, guns, candy, oh yes and guns! loads of them but Ive not had one decent find...unless a senet pawn and an energy can is categorised as a decent find..oh and lucky me, Ive also found a brick which I'd previously stopped tripping over more than 2 years ago.