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Councilman seeks better solution
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Two carts left on East Yosemite Avenue across from Lincoln School.

It didn’t take long Wednesday to find abandoned shopping carts in Manteca.

There were two — one from Grocery Outlet and the other from the Dollar Store —abandoned across from Lincoln School on Yosemite Avenue. A Food-for-Les cart was left at Lincoln Park.

A Wal-Mart cart filled with junk was parked under the 120 Bypass along Van Ryn Avenue. SaveMart carts were left along Airport Way and the main magnet of plastic and steel carts — Moffat Boulevard — had eight.

The seemingly uptick in abandoned shopping cart activity in Manteca caught Councilman Vince Hernandez’s attention.

He noted that the proliferation this summer seems to have expanded even though the city has a program in place using Seniors Helping Area Residents and Police (SHARP) volunteers to note their locations and provide the information to the appropriate store. And when the carts aren’t picked up in timely manner, the city will then collect the cart that can cost sores as much as $500 to purchase and store them until such time as they can be picked up and a fee is paid.

Hernandez said this seems to be happening despite the installation by stores of device that lock wheels one carts reach the edge of their property.

Actually, that’s only being done by one business — Target. The retailer has a fairly good success rates at keeping carts from being taken from their parking lot as very few end up being left around Manteca.

Last July, the Manteca Police stepped up enforcement of the municipal ordinance that prohibits the taking of shopping carts as the first step in addressing homeless issues. 

Hernandez indicated he’d like to see the city work on ways of improving the shopping cart clutter.

Cart lock system

similar to ones that

keep dogs in check

Target became the first Manteca store to use the low-tech system that basically makes it impossible to wheel a shopping cart off the store’s property.

Since Target put the system in, the number of complaints the city has received about their pilfered carts being left around town has dropped to virtually zilch.

Manteca Police during their plan review for new stores that use shopping carts “highly recommends” they install a system similar to the one at the Target store. But without an ordinance requiring such as system, Manteca can’t make it an absolute requirement.

Stores like Target typically lose between $6,000 and $10,000 a year in shopping carts not to mention the employee time they spend driving around town retrieving carts that they can reclaim. Shopping carts cost between $250 and $500 apiece depending on the size and design. Carts have been left in front of $400,000 homes, in the middle of vacant fields, on school grounds, and in parks.

Sometimes they’re parked with trash in them including lawn clippings.

The anti-cart theft is akin to the electric fences that give dogs’ necks a yank when they cross an underground boundary. There is a 1-inch wire loop buried under the perimeter of the parking lot. It is connected to a low-power antenna. Push a cart over that loop and a signal triggers the rear wheel on the Target carts to lock using a boot.

The only way to get it to roll again is for Target workers to use an electric device to deactivate the boot.

The distance some carts travel is fairly amazing.

Wal-Mart carts have been found on Daniels Street near Kohl’s and as far north as Jason Street by the Rite-Aid store. One Dollar Store cart was spotted at Louise Avenue and Airport Way.

Manteca leaders 10 years ago took some proactive steps to force stores to retrieve the carts in a timely manner but the state legislature essentially handcuffed local jurisdictions by limiting their ability to deal with abandoned shopping carts and minimizing fines on stores to $50 every six months for flagrant failure to retrieve carts that a city may impound.

The City Council adopted a policy in late 2005 that includes:

uHaving the Manteca Seniors Helping Area Residents and Police continue to monitor where carts are abandoned and contact appropriate stores.

Working with the California Grocers Association to encourage local supermarkets to retrieve carts in a timely manner.

Lobbying the California Legislature through the California League of Cities to give shopping cart abandonment laws more teeth.

Exploring the possibility of requiring new stores and possibly current stores to utilize a cart deposit system.

 The Manteca Kmart on Northgate Drive had a cart deposit system I the late 1990s requiring quarters to get a cart that would be returned when the shopper returned the cart to a corral. The store dropped the system after receiving numerous complaints from customers.