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Abandoned shopping carts: Federal Way team recovers 3,456 and saves businesses $483K
A strange and unexpected consequence of the economic downturn since 2008 is the proliferation of abandoned shopping carts throughout local cities.
Visit Tacoma, and you’ll find shopping carts sitting forlornly on sidewalks to busy streets, their purpose in life no longer being fulfilled. Some cities, such as Tacoma, have attempted to combat this quickly spreading epidemic by instituting punitive laws, but to little or no effect. In other places, they’ve put certain mechanisms on the carts that stop people from removing them from the property.
In Federal Way, local streets and parking lots are monitored by the dedicated volunteer Shopping Cart Recovery Team of Frank Gabreluk, Dan Goede, Mari Ikeda-Gomes, Lottie Kinney and John McLaren.
The team has recovered 3,456 carts and returned them to their proper owners. The effort has saved those businesses more than $483,000 in replacement costs, said Federal Way Police Department Cmdr. Chris Norman.
Outside of that, the team has also recycled 2,690 pounds of “unidentifiable” carts since its creation.
Norman was on hand during the Oct. 4 city council meeting to review the work the cart recovery team has done since its inception late last year.
“This team has been positively impacting shoppers, retailers, ditches, sidewalks, parking lots, wetlands and woodlands and just about everywhere else since September of 2010,” Norman said. “A need was identified in about August of 2010, when the former recovery business operator decided to cease operations. We basically started to see carts piling up all over the city, and unfortunately, the assisting state statute for shopping cart theft is ineffective and unenforceable.”
Norman said the state statute is problematic because it calls for intent to be proven that the person taking the shopping cart meant to deprive the store of it permanently. In most cases, shopping carts are abandoned when people walk home from a store with them, meaning any attempts at prosecuting under the state law would most likely be dismissed.
Federal Way looked at what local cities were doing, and found that any punitive measures were contradictory to a “business friendly Federal Way,” Norman said. And so the recovery team was formed.
“They use existing assets in the form of a semi-retired police car and a trailer the emergency operation center owns,” Norman said. “There’s a hotline…and we also added the online reporting option. The volunteers also use our Safe City camera system to spot and report abandoned carts throughout the city.”
Mayor Skip Priest was impressed with the effort of the cart recovery team and what it’s been able to do in its first year.
“Many times we see someone say, ‘There are astounding numbers,’” he said. “And I must admit that I was cynically waiting for an ‘astounding’ number, but I was absolutely shocked at 3,456 carts. That is amazing. Those numbers are astounding.”
Abandoned carts can be reported at (253) 835-6774 or at www.cityoffederalway.com/shoppingcart.