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Shopping Carts Push Politician to the Brink

Del. Scott Surovell wants stores with shopping carts to be held accountable for collecting them from surrounding neighborhoods.

After pulling 136 shopping carts out of a creek in the Mount Vernon area during an October cleanup, Del. Scott Surovell (D-44th District) has introduced House Bill 2011 during the 2013 Virginia General Assembly. The bill states it “shall be unlawful for any person to place, leave, or abandon on any real property in the county, or within specified districts within the [Fairfax] county."

It does not mention shopping carts specifically, but Surovell said the bill covers abandoned personal property. Grocery stores and department stores with shopping carts should be held accountable for retrieving the carts left abandoned in Fairfax County communities, he said.

If you’re caught taking a shopping cart from a grocery store and you take it home, under the Code of Virginia, you could be charged with a class 3 misdemeanor.

According to section 18.2-102.1 of the Code of Virginia: “It shall be unlawful for any person to remove a shopping cart from the premises, of the owner of such shopping cart without the consent, of the owner or of his agent, servant, or employee given at the time of such removal."

Last year, Del. Surovell hosted three cleanups of Little Hunting Creek. Each cleanup netted dozens of shopping carts and tons of trash. In 2005, Little Hunt Creek was named the “trashiest stream in Fairfax County” for what was “one of the toughest stream cleanups in county history.” Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality has also called Little Hunting Creek impaired due to E. coli bacterial impairments and polychlorinated biphenyls.

Jamie Miller, a spokesman for Giant Food, said the grocery store chain is glad to supply carts and their stores have a process in place where employees retrieve carts regularly.

“Occasionally, shopping carts are removed from our parking lots, and some store locations experience a higher than normal occurrence of carts not being returned,” Miller said in a written statement. “We very much appreciate the courtesy of our customers in returning carts and baskets after use.”

Edie January 18, 2013 at 07:53 PM
I'm not quite sure from this article why the stores are responsible for people stealing their carts and dumping them in the creek. Each cart has to cost them a great deal of money. Charging them for the cart cleanup sounds like it would punish them for the cart theft.
Nora Eldridge January 19, 2013 at 01:08 AM
Some stores charge a nominal fee of twenty-five cents or so to rent the cart while you're in the store. You get your quarter back when you return the cart. All the carts are kept hooked together when not in use. I'm sure some will still make it off the lots, but perhaps something like this would help.
Marty Skopp January 19, 2013 at 12:13 PM
I agree with Eddie. Go after the thieves; not the owners of the carts.
Scott Surovell January 19, 2013 at 12:42 PM
Marty & Edie - The stores need to install systems to prevent this where needed. The Walmart at King's Crossing has installed a system that causes their carts to lock once they get leave the parking lot. Aldie requires a $0.25 deposit. Unless Walmart post's 24-7 security at the exits to the perimeter of their property, they can't catch people and I don't feel that the public should be paying the police to keep their carts on the property. My statute simply says that if a retailers cart is found off-premises and they are notified in writing, they have 7 days to remove it or else they will be fined.
wanda fitzgerald January 19, 2013 at 02:45 PM
Shoppers Food Warehouse also installed the lock cart system. Another option is to install a barrier so the carts can't leave the store frontage.
CharlesT January 19, 2013 at 02:59 PM
Scott--getting back to the "perps," as it were . . . . does law enforcement, or anyone else for that matter, stop and question people who have obviously absconded with the carts and converted them to their own use? We see many (apparently homeless) individuals walking down the highway with shopping carts loaded with their belongings. Are they the ones abandoning the carts in the Creek?
W. Heine January 19, 2013 at 06:33 PM
Its strange that this idea works in Europe, why wouldn't work here? Has anyone found Aldi carts in the creek?
Steve Chaconas January 19, 2013 at 08:26 PM
All of the above. Stealing a cart, dumping a cart...illegal. Cart owners need to practice cart control. Stray carts create parking and traffic safety issues. But in a waterway, they create hazards and become anchored as they are imbedded making them very difficult to remove. Businesses need to be responsible for them. With a COSTCO on the way, very close to Little Hunting Creek, there needs to be something in place to curtail this problem.
T Ailshire January 19, 2013 at 11:35 PM
Scott, who's going to notify them? Are you proposing that the county have a "shopping cart enforcement officer"? Paid for by whom? I see no realistic way to enforce this, unless you expect the county to provide your volunteers the authority to "notify" the owner.
Becca N January 20, 2013 at 12:23 AM
Great idea, not only do they ened up in the creek, but actually all over the place just like other litter. Prevention is a great policy. If all stores had some type of mechanism in place to keep them from leaving the premises. Enforcement after the fact is probably not realistic.
Wildermann January 20, 2013 at 05:26 PM
If laws are on the books, why should police have an option to apply or ignore enforcement ? I see no reason why young police recruits can't spend a designated period of their job training experience enforcing some of the more common day to day public ordinances that go overlooked. Littering, jaywalking, loitering, shopping cart thefts to name a few. Bicycle patrols might be the best way to be within the violation hotspots. Officers could issue warning citations for 1st time offenses and have a small printed pamphlet in English and Spanish (possibly other languages) to give to the scofflaw, an explanation of the violation(s) they have committed. It wouldn't hurt if officer friendly gave notice to business owners that their abandoned property needs to be retrieved. Police need hands on experience with citizens to develop into ethical and tolerant officers of the law who understand the concept "policing by consent" and who exercise discretion. Such practical experience may help young officers recognize that to secure and maintain the respect and approval of the public means also the securing of the willing co-operation of the public in the task of securing observance of laws.This is a potential winning scenario for the business community to solve the ongoing theft of their property while establishing good will with citizens that are tired of having their neighborhoods and open space areas littered with these carts. I appreciate Delegate Surovells effort on our behalf.

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