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125 carts a month collected
Abandoned carts called black eye on Manteca
CART2 8-1-15
Two homeless individuals use a pair of shopping carts and a baby stroller to move their items around Manteca. The photo was taken in downtown on Wednesday. - photo by HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

Seniors Helping Area Residents and Police (SHARP) volunteers pick up between 100 and 125 abandoned shopping carts a month on the streets of Manteca.

When there is available volunteer manpower, shopping cart sweeps are made on Saturdays. They are taken to a city yard and the stores that the carts are from are informed so they can pick them up. The city charges nothing for this service.

However, the 125 carts are just a tip of the iceberg. Many stores hire cart retrieval services that get as much as $3 per cart to drive around Manteca to collect stolen carts.

“It’s a black eye on the city,” Councilman Vince Hernandez who asked for a staff report that was represented at last week’s council meeting by Police Chief Nick Obligacion.

The police chief  said retrieving stolen shopping carts is a low priority for his department. Officers have, however, stopped people who have commandeered carts not simply to take groceries home, but use them as traveling storage containers for their personal items. Most of those people are homeless.

Obligacion emphasized that the majority of carts that are taken from stores and abandoned belong to people who don’t have cars to do grocery shopping.

Councilman Mike Morowit noted he’s seeing less homeless people pushing carts with their belongings in them.

“A lot of the homeless have converted to (baby) strollers,” Morowit noted.

Morowit added that stores such as Wal-Mart should be controlling their carts more carefully.

Obligacion said that allowing abandoned shopping carts to litter neighborhoods is akin  to a broken window. It creates blight conditions which in turn attract more blight and then ultimately an increase in crime.

Manteca is not the only city struggling with the problem of abandoned shopping carts.

Fairfield several years ago put in place a city law that gives stores three days to pick up their carts after being notified by the city. If stores fail to do so they must pay a $3 a cart retrieval fee. If they don’t pick up their carts within three days  three times in six months, the fine jumps to $50 a day that the city holds the carts. And if the city finds 20 carts within 90 days, stores have to pay for security improvements that can cost as much as $40,000 to deploy electronic security systems to lock wheels so their carts don’t leave their property.

In Ventura they have required all stores to install cart theft prevention systems. If stores don’t retrieve their carts in a timely manner from the city their municipal ordinance allows them to destroy them or sell them.

Ventura and Fairfield, like Manteca, view the abandoned carts as blight in addition to being a safety hazard.

Arizona state law requires stores to retrieve their carts unlike in California. At the same time it is a crime to take shopping carts from store property

In Tucson and Phoenix in any given week, 15 drivers for the Arizona Cart Retrieval Co. pick up and return 7,500 carts.

If carts aren’t picked up in Tucson within a set amount of time, the city collects them and takes then to the landfill.

Shopping carts can cost stores between $100 and $300 each to purchase.

To contact Dennis Wyatt, email