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Loose carts add to blight in Ceres
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As is the case in most communities in this area, Ceres has a "shopping cart" ordinance, which is intended to reduce the problem of abandoned shopping carts accumulating throughout our community. This may seem like a trivial matter, but like any other form of blight, abandoned shopping carts tend to suggest that the neighborhood "doesn't care." And when criminals - gang members in particular - think that the neighbors do not care, they rightly can assume that their criminal acts, loitering, littering and other anti-social behaviour will not be reported to the police. Blighted neighborhoods lead to declining property values, increased crime and a decreased overall quality of life. Abandoned shopping carts, therefore, is a matter requiring our attention.

Most shopping cart ordinances place responsibilities on both the retail outlet and the people who remove them from those places of business, making such removal a law violation. The businesses that provide shoppers with these carts are required to pick up abandoned carts within three days of being notified of the abandonment situation. The stores are also required to post signs on their buildings and entrances/exits of parking lots advising the public that removal of the carts from the premises is a code violation, punishable by fines. Another ordinance requirement is that the stores must label their carts with the business name and the phone number to call to report any abandoned carts. The labels also inform the cart user that removal from the store's premises (or parking lot) is a law violation punishable by a $100 fine.

Persons who take the carts away from the premises are subject to the $100 fine for merely possessing the cart offsite from the store premises. But at the same time, the ordinance contemplates the fact that some people have no other means to carry their groceries and other purchased items home. In recognition of this, store managers may issue individuals written permission to take the carts home, with the understanding that the cart will be returned on a timely basis.

Stores in Ceres have arrangements with a private contractor to retrieve shopping carts from throughout the community several times weekly. But it is often the case that the carts are left in places that are not frequently traveled, for example in neighborhoods that are not visible from major streets and the stores themselves. In those instances, particularly, it is helpful when neighbors report the carts as promptly as possible.

The city will pick up abandoned carts only in instances when they are in the public right-of-way, and pose a safety hazard to pedestrians and motorists.

The shopping carts issue is, by itself, not a huge problem, but it is one of the easier problems to solve, because there are mechanisms in place for their timely removal, and there is accountability for both the stores and the people who unlawfully remove the carts. Abandoned shopping carts are simply a symptom of a bigger problem, bringing vulnerable neighborhoods to the attention of criminals and creating an environment that will attract more nuisances that detract from our quality of life. This is why it is so important to take an active role in keeping our neighborhoods clean and blight-free. We recommend that you call the numbers that are listed on the shopping carts for prompt removal, or you can report them to Code Enforcement by calling 538-5799.