Shopping cart theft is a growing problem during the COVID pandemic in Fall River

FALL RIVER – Would you mind stealing our shopping carts?

This is the sentiment of some local businesses.

Studies have shown that stealing these wheeled carts – and deliberately pushing a cart off a business premises technically constitutes theft – ccosts businesses millions of dollars across the country each year.

In Fall River, there is even a local ordinance that deals exclusively with the taking and dropping of shopping carts.

Environment Article III of Chapter 26 – which aims to eliminate a public nuisance and potential risks to health and safety – makes the owner of the basket liable to a possible fine and confiscation of the basket, in the event of abandonment in a city ​​street or sidewalk.

The order, however, makes no reference to who takes the basket.

A woman is seen here walking along Rodman Street in late winter using a shopping trolley after visiting a local laundromat.

Article III states that the director of the city’s community maintenance department, or a designate, may authorize DCM staff to collect and remove abandoned shopping carts.

Once a cart is brought to the DCM facility, a “Notice of Impoundment” is mailed to the owner at the address on the cart.

Owners are required to “visibly and permanently affix” to each shopping cart the name, address and phone number of the store or business from which it originated.

Owners are also required to post a shopping cart withdrawal warning “at all public entrances and exits of the business establishment”.

If an owner does not respond to the impoundment notice within 30 days, the DCM manager can then impose a fine of $ 100 and dispose of the unclaimed cart.

It is not known how often the city collects abandoned shopping carts and sends notices to homeowners. A request for comment from DCM director John Perry was not returned.

Stop & Shop, however, has a program in place in Fall River to recover abandoned shopping carts that have been illegally removed from store property.

The company has two grocery stores in the city, one in the South End at 333 Mariano Bishop Blvd. and another at 501 Rodman St.

A pair of Stop & Shop caddies can be seen here near the corner of Plymouth Avenue and Fourth Street.

The Rodman Street store, which is close to neighborhoods on both sides of Plymouth Avenue which is made up mostly of apartment buildings, is the reason Stop & Shop pays a service company to collect and collect the carts abandoned.

“Customers traveling on foot collect carts from the Stop & Shop at 501 Rodman St in Fall River,” a spokesperson said in an email.

“As a result, we are working with a third-party basket recovery service to help recover shopping carts. “

The spokesperson said the service company sends its employees three times a week to pick up “carts left in public areas …

She was unable to provide information on the costs incurred by Stop & Shop in engaging the third party company.

But the spokesperson noted that the Rodman Street store “has seen an increase in cases of cart withdrawals as the number of customers visiting the store increases with the pandemic (COVID-19).”

She said the occasional withdrawal of shopping carts was not unusual for Stop & Shop stores located “in cities and residential areas where more than the average number of customers walk to the store rather than by car”.

Two of the store’s carts this week were seen being pushed into each other and left near the sidewalk at the corner of Plymouth Avenue and Fourth Street, which is an uphill climb of nearly half a mile from the store.

In the past month, a reporter also encountered an abandoned Stop & Shop cart near the Murray Street railroad tracks in the north of the city, where there is no supermarket within walking distance.

Stop & Shop customer Melisa Hairstone had left her home on Eagle Street to do some shopping.

“There is already enough clutter and trash in Fall River,” she said.

A pair of mallards and a Stop & Shop cart are seen here in the water next to the town's Quequechan River rail trail.

Hairstone said she recently saw an abandoned shopping cart, although she is not sure if it was from Stop & Shop on Columbia Street not far from her home.

“What is it doing here?” ” she said.

When reminded that International Earth Day fell this past Thursday, Hairstone expressed some sadness.

“It’s so sad that we are leaving all of this mess for our kids to clean up,” she said.

The Walgreens store and pharmacy at 369 Plymouth Ave. can be found around the kittens corner of Rodman Street Stop & Shop. The city’s other Walgreens are located on North and South Main Streets, Rhode Island Avenue and Pleasant Street.

A Walgreens spokesperson, in an email, said: “Although we have had cart thefts at some of our Fall River area locations, we have not seen a significant increase in thefts. generally”.

Some companies that provide shopping carts to customers use an electronic security system that uses sensors built into a store’s parking lot.

When a customer tries to push a cart beyond a certain point, the wheels automatically lock.

At least one chain of stores with a location in Fall River has found a low-tech remedy to keep any customer from walking around with a shopping cart.

The shopping carts at the Fall River Savers store have tall metal rods that prevent them from being pushed outside.

In the Savers thrift store inside the Fall Fiver shopping center on Mariano Bishop Boulevard, metal rods that exceed the height of the entrance have been attached to shopping carts.

Someone threw this cart from the Harbor Freight Tools store on Mariano Bishop Boulevard on the median near William S. Canning Boulevard and Lawton Street.

When a customer tries to push a cart into the entrance, the rod hits the top of the door and prevents the cart from passing.

A spokesperson for Savers Inc. did not respond to requests for comment regarding the use of the metal rod obstacle.

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Peggy P. Gilmore