Abandoned shopping carts are becoming so much of a nuisance in some parts of Canton that City Council has passed a law to try to address the problem.
The carts are showing up in empty lots, the yards of boarded up houses and sometimes in the street.
Canton Council member John Mariol says they end up in neighborhoods "by and large from people who do not have transportation but need to get their groceries home. When you start seeing shopping carts in` neighborhoods that an indication that poverty is a problem.”
Indeed, the carts tend to be found most often in the city’s poorest wards, according to Mariol, where it appears that a lot of people who can’t afford transportation are using the shopping carts to walk their groceries home from the store.
Since it is not practical to try to track down individuals, the law is designed to get at the problem through the stores. It requires them to devise measures like barriers and electronic wheel locks to keep their carts from getting way.
But Mariol, who voted for the ordinance, says it was watered down from what was originally planned. As first written, the law would have imposed stiff penalties on stores for carts abandoned in the city.
According to Mariol, Mayor Tom Bernabei and Council members both felt that was not the way to do it – for several reasons. There’s the question of whether it is fair to bring charges against the stores, who are victims of a crime. But there’s also the issue of maintaining food outlets in the city.
“The city has experienced a couple of grocery stores closing, and we have some food deserts,” Mariol says. “So, the penalizing of grocery stores in the city of Canton, in my opinion, was not a good strategy.”
Mariol says the mayor led the way in a re-writing of the ordinance; it no longer contains criminal penalties for the stores. The new law will go into effect April 4.