Mike Kuzenka, a Fort Worth police officer who works in the Homeless Outreach Program and Enforcement unit, has seen at least one shopping cart at every homeless camp he has visited.
A new ordinance may change that.
Through a new ordinance that went into effect July 1, the city of Fort Worth requires that businesses remove abandoned shopping carts from public spaces, or else face a fine. City officials say the regulation, which has garnered business support, should lead to cleaner and safer streets, but some residents question the reason behind it.
Northside resident Sergio Garza does not think the ordinance will be enough to deter people from taking carts out of parking lots.
“Addressing the shopping cart situation is like addressing the falling leaves in the fall,” Garza said. “We are experiencing an increase in homelessness in Fort Worth. If the homelessness is addressed, shopping cart issues disappear.”
The Tarrant County Homeless Coalition recently counted 5,527 homeless people, a 14 percentage point increase from last year.
The shopping cart is not considered abandoned if a person is using it, even outside of a parking lot, according to city officials. Code officers will not remove shopping carts from people while in use.
Officer Kuzenka will be on the frontlines of enforcing the ordinance, but he said he wasn’t sure of its ultimate impact.
“I will have to see how the new ordinance reads. I’m not sure how officers will be handling that because the old ordinance had to have an owner to be able to charge them with any offense,” Kuzenka said.
The ordinance was a response to residents’ and city officials’ concerns about abandoned shopping carts and will help businesses maintain their carts, said Tara Perez, the manager of the city’s Directions Home program.
The city will remove abandoned shopping carts in public areas and take them to one of four drop-off stations around Fort Worth. The city’s code compliance department will notify the business of the carts. Businesses will have 30 days to retrieve the carts and to pay a $50 fee per cart.
The shopping carts will be destroyed after 30 days if they are not picked up. Businesses will face a Class C misdemeanor for having 16 or more abandoned carts at any drop-off station.
Saeima Castro, a Fiesta Mart store manager in Fort Worth’s Northside, has noticed a few shopping carts missing around the store parking lot. In late June, Castro’s store installed wheel locks to stop its shopping carts from leaving the lot and to follow the new ordinance.
Big retailers, such as Kroger, Target and Walmart, were a part of the process of creating the ordinance, said Gary Huddleston, a grocery industry consultant for the Texas Retailers Association.
Companies pointed out it would cost more money to send out staff to retrieve the shopping carts than to replace them, Huddleston said.
“We do appreciate the fact the city has recognized the efforts of retailers to prevent the unauthorized removal by installing the cart theft prevention systems and has in the ordinance a defense for those retailers who have invested in this system,” Huddleston said.
Juan Salinas II is a reporting fellow for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at email@example.com or on Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.