Riverdale ordinance seeks to curb cart abandonment

By Justin Boron

A forlorn shopping cart rests on the sidewalk in Riverdale. The code enforcement department has pictures of carts piled up and dumped behind trees. People can be seen walking their groceries home in them.

Carts removed from their home have become so common in Riverdale that the City Council may pass an ordinance to crack down the problem.

The council is scheduled to act on an ordinance this evening that city officials say would hold the retailer and the customer more responsible for deserted shopping carts.

A retailer would have a three-day grace period to pick up an abandoned cart held by the city before a $10-per-day fee is assessed.

If the cart's owner doesn't retrieve the cart after seven days, the city will dispose of it at the owner's expense, the ordinance says.

And a customer caught taking the cart off the retailer's property also could be cited for what amounts to theft, said Brantley Day, the city's community development director.

The city recognized the need for tighter enforcement but wanted to be fair to both sides, he said.

"We saw it as a huge problem," Day said.

But who is to blame?

Retailers are equally frustrated by the situation, said Glen Wilkins, Wal-Mart's spokesman for the southeast region.

"We don't like having our shopping carts taken," he said. "They're not cheap.

"It costs us money, and we feel that is an eyesore in the community."

The carts cost between $150 and $400 each, Day said.

Council member Michelle Bruce said it is a difficult situation to remedy.

"There is a no-win situation with that scenario," she said.

Whether it's fair to fine the retailers is the city's decision, Wilkins said.

A state law already exists to stop customers from taking the shopping carts off the owner's property.

The law makes it illegal to leave the carts on public streets, sidewalks, and parking lots other than the cart's owner.

It is just a matter of enforcing it, said Marti Tracy, a Morrow code enforcement officer.

Like Riverdale, Morrow also is taking steps to better enforce the existing state law, she said.

Although much of the community admits the carts look bad, the ordinance leaves little room for residents, who don't have transportation to the market and need some way to get their groceries home.

Day said the city is sympathetic to that need and is willing to work with people to make arrangements with the cart's owner to borrow the carts.