Volunteers round up thousands of abandoned shopping carts

A strange and unexpected consequence of the economic downturn 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. There are laws that prohibit abandoning the carts, but to little 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 a recent Federal Way city council meeting to review the work that 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.

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. “Unfortunately, the assisting state statute for shopping cart theft is ineffective and unenforceable.”

And so the recovery team was formed.

The volunteers use a semi-retired police car and a trailer that the emergency operation center owns, a hotline and an online reporting option and city security cameras.

Mayor Skip Priest was impressed with the effort of the cart recovery team and what it has 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.”

The Federal Way Mirror is a sister paper of the Mercer Island Reporter.


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