What is being done about abandoned shopping carts?

The Alhambra Source asks your questions to the Alhambra Police Department's Sergeant Brandon Black. Send your questions to info@alhambrasource.org.

I see people dumping shopping carts all over town creating a hazard. Do the police have the authority to cite / give a warning to people who take them and dump them in front of our houses?

Abandoned shopping carts have been a chronic problem for many municipalities, including Alhambra. To combat this problem the city has taken a  pro-active, two-pronged approach. First, the city enacted ordinances in 2007 that prohibit the removal of shopping carts from the property of the business that provides them. It also prohibits abandoning shopping carts on any public or private property. Modifying shopping carts and using shopping carts for any purpose other than that intended by the cart owner are also prohibited by city ordinance. Unattended shopping carts located on either public or private property without the owner’s consent are declared a nuisance by ordinance.

Ask a Cop: Sergeant Brandon Black

The second prong of the city’s approach places certain responsibilities on the businesses that provide shopping carts to customers. The city developed a comprehensive “Mandatory Abandoned Cart Prevention Plan,” in which local businesses that provide shopping carts are required to participate. This plan requires those  businesses that provide carts to customers take affirmative steps to prevent removal of carts from their premises and mandatorily retrieve abandoned carts within 24 hours. Affected businesses are also required to permanently affix cart identification to each cart, post signs in conspicuous places that notify customers that cart removal is prohibited, and train employees on requirements of the abandoned cart prevention plan. Here is a link to the Shopping Carts ordinance.

Active enforcement of these ordinances has been a priority since they were enacted in 2007. Enforcement has been carried out primarily through the City’s Code Enforcement Office. Prior to 2007, the city had code enforcement officers specifically patrolling for abandoned shopping carts and removing them.

Residents are encouraged to call the California Shopping Cart Retrieval Service at 1-800-252-4613 at any time to report any abandoned shopping carts.

4 thoughts on “What is being done about abandoned shopping carts?”

  1. Uphill: I’m not sure that it is just the mom-and-pop or foreign-owned stores that are the problem. Mom-and-pops in particular have more economic incentives to stop shopping cart thefts than the bigger stores. Rather, it seems abandoned shopping carts are a general problem that applies to all stores with shopping carts and all cities with stores that have shopping carts. Around me, all I see are Office Depot, Ralphs, and other American brand store carts. Where I used to live in another city, the carts on my street were likewise from the stores within a mile or so.

    Perhaps there is a better way. In many cities, folks have their own shopping carts (click the link to see a picture of what I mean).

    Why don’t you get the city, chamber of commerce, and stores to combine efforts in a program that purchases a bulk supply of those shopping carts to sell at cost, or for a nominal profit (<5%). Stores can then hawk those shopping carts for their convenience and environmental value just like some of them do reusable bags. Then, police who catch customers off the store premises with a shopping cart can assess a secondary fee and given one of those personal shopping carts (or more likely, the fine would factor in the cost of the personal shopping cart and the person given a cart after paying the fine). The stores win because they deal with fewer stolen carts, residents and the city win because they have fewer abandoned carts littering sidewalks and parkways, and shopping cart scofflaws win because they can purchase an affordable personal shopping cart and no longer need to worry about offending neighbors or getting fined by the city.

    In the future, I recommend mixing rants about your neighbors with constructive suggestions and action. The world is what we make of it. Or put another way, “we must be the change we wish to see in the world.” — Mohandas Gandhi

    1. “Why don’t you get the city, chamber of commerce, and stores to combine efforts in a program that purchases a bulk supply of those shopping carts…In the future, I recommend mixing rants about your neighbors with constructive suggestions and action.”

      And how do you know I haven’t? Besides, I would think that the City would explore these options more aggressively considering this where my tax dollars (that pays city employees) SHOULD go — it’s not MY job to do theirs. Is it not enough that I rack up charges on cell phone minutes calling the Abandoned Shopping Cart Hotline several times daily?

      1. It is reasonable to assume that you had not taken steps beyond reporting shopping carts because your comment did not say you had.

        I understand what you mean about expecting the city staff to do their job. However, I do not expect that resolving the abandoned shopping cart issue is the highest priority for our city government. It sounds like the city council and staff have done a number of things to address abandoned shopping carts. They have apparently had mixed success. More can be done but the more appropriate question is whether we want our city to spend its limited resources on abandoned shopping carts or resolving other issues such as graffiti and the home and auto burglaries that all seem to be increasing.

        Despite best efforts of city staff some issues will not get their full and undivided attention at all times. Based on your comment, abandoned shopping carts currently occupy that void. That is where we, the members of the community, need to step up to the plate. After all, this is our city. We own it. We control it. And it is what we make of it.

        Be a community activist. Regardless of the issue, community activists regularly fill gaps left by our governments. If you find an issue so compelling that you cannot stand to see it left unattended then it is upon you to take a stand and do your best to make things right. For me, it is the high speed rail proposal (see: Alhambra123.org). I have spent way too many hours, precious cell minutes, and money trying to inform and organize the community. For you, that issue is abandoned shopping carts. Reporting crimes and other bad behavior is only part of what we can do to improve the community. But you will need to do more if you strongly care about the issue and your reporting does not do enough. I’m sure your suggestions will find a receptive audience if you do some initial legwork to identify the costs and benefits of any proposal. 🙂

  2. These ordinances may look good on paper, but like other well-intentioned measures that the City of Alhambra comes out with — are useless unless they are ENFORCED!

    The problem is that Alhambra has a proliferation (as do our adjacent cities) of mom and pop/foreign-owned markets that often prove difficult to track down the corporate office where policies can be implemented and relayed to the store level. Often times the on-site manager is not very fluent in English (believe me, I’ve checked as abandoned shopping carts are one of my biggest peeves) and “policing” their customers is the LAST concern they have (sales and profit being Top Priority).

    What would make a HUGE impact is for Alhambra’s PD or Code Enforcement to start issuing citations, or at least written warnings (as the do to street corner fruit vendors and citizens having front yard sales) to these scofflaws. Belive me — word will get out QUCIKLY that the city means business!

    However, one of the arguments we hear (that the City claims) is the notion that these shopping cart thieves are merely “old ladies” or the “handicapped” which is pure nonsense. The majority of the violators that I see on a DAILY basis are perfectly fit, middle-aged people (many of them males) that think there is some type of “free service” or magic going on — they bring the carts home, unload the [oftentimes] 2-3 bags from the cart, push it back to the sidewalk — and * presto * — it’s gone the next day!

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