Rantz: Lakewood to punish businesses that experience theft from the homeless
Lakewood in Pierce County has an abandoned shopping cart problem. People are stealing them from grocery and retail stores and dropping them off across town. The homeless, in particular, use the shopping carts to transport their personal belongings. It’s created a blight on the city.
Unfortunately, now the city is making the problem worse with a punishment against the stores that are already the victim of theft.
The law is now in effect. According to The Tacoma News Tribune:
All retail stores with carts now must have signs attached to the carts that identify which store they belong to, provide a phone number or address and notify the public that removing the cart from the store’s property is illegal.
The law waives fees for the first eight carts collected by the city, but then the store is fined $100 per cart, surging to $200 by the 12th cart found outside of the store’s property. The tally is reset every month.
This is absolutely ludicrous. The store is the victim. They obviously don’t want their property stolen. Why is the city going for a cash grab to take advantage of the victims?
Will the City of Lakewood fine the homeless person who steals the carts for the same amount they’d charge the grocery or retail shop? Nope.
Lakewood Councilmember Paul Bocchi said “it just doesn’t make sense,” according to The News Tribune. He concurs that the homeless disproportionately steal the carts. Punishing a business for being the victim of a crime? I guess that is OK.
To help the business mitigate the issue, the city requires stores to use one of many types of proactive security measures, including a techy cart that self-locks its wheels that stray too far from the store, poles mounted to the carts (keeping them in the store, while making carrying the groceries or purchased items to your car difficult), or more dedicated security.
The city could, of course, simply use the new cart signage, call the grocery store to pick up their cart and only issue a fine if they don’t respond. But that would give businesses the benefit of the doubt, treating them as actual victims, rather than using them to expand a city budget.
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