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OPINION: Fines won't return stolen carts

Nick Seebruch

Published on April 23, 2017

An abandoned Wal Mart shopping cart at the corner of McConnel and First Street (Nick Seebruch/TC Media).

This week, Seaway News wrote about the City's plans to deal with the problem of abandoned shopping carts that are left around the Cornwall.

The plan is for the City to travel around Cornwall picking up any shopping carts they find once a month. They will then keep these carts in impound essentially and charge the stores $25 for their return.

This may sound like City of Cornwall will be holding the property of Cornwall's grocery stores hostage, but is there any better alternative?

The City should be doing something about all of the abandoned shopping carts. Once you notice them, you will see them everywhere in this city. There is one apartment complex on Brookdale Avenue that had blue ten Wal-Mart shopping carts parked nearby in February.

Different cures have been suggested for this problem, one is to fine the shopping cart thieves. That may be effective, but it also will punish Cornwall's least fortunate. People who have a car or money for a cab won't be stealing carts. Also there is the question of the cost of paying police officers to monitor the shopping cart problem and catch offenders. The police probably have better things to do with their time.

Another solution is for the stores themselves to invest in anti-theft technology. A cart that has wheels which lock when it leaves store property will cost the stores a couple hundred dollars apiece, more, at least in the short term, than the $25 to get their old carts back from the City.

The City's by-law office says that the $25 fee will cover the cost of going around and collecting these shopping carts and storing them only, the City will not be making any sort of profit off of this endeavour.

On the other hand, a fine against those who actually steal the carts might not be enough to even cover the cost of having a by-law officer or a police officer monitor the situation and hand out the fines.

Also, by collecting the carts themselves, the City can be reasonably sure that they are taken off of the streets, fines won't return stolen carts.

Ultimately, collecting the carts themselves is the only way that the City can be sure that they are taken off of the streets; however, they might not even break even as they hope to on this scheme. Cornwall's Municipal Works Yard might be soon be full of abandoned shopping carts that they've impounded and the stores might simply choose not to pay the $25 each to get them back.

This could encourage grocery stores to invest in anti-cart-theft technology, or they might just hire someone whose job it is to make sure the carts aren't stolen in the first place.

This plan is the most direct way the City can clean up the cart problem, but, it won't solve the root of the problem, the theft of shopping carts.