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By Felix Adamo/ The Californian
BY THEO DOUGLAS Californian staff writer firstname.lastname@example.org
A Fresno clampdown on shopping carts has caught the eye of Ward 1 Councilman Willie Rivera, who said the discarded grocery getters remain a blight on southeast Bakersfield.
Changes to two city ordinances that were approved by the Fresno City Council and become law April 25 would make it illegal to take shopping carts into city parks and fine store owners $50 whose carts are found abandoned more than three times in six months.
The revised ordinances would also mandate cart owners put signs on carts citing municipal code forbidding their removal, and maintain an "on-site cart containment program" -- such as chains, locking wheels, or on-site security -- unless they employ a cart retrieval service.
Fresno City Council President Steve Brandau said the city is being victimized twice -- first when people steal shopping carts, second when they use them to transport recyclables stolen from residents' city trash cans to local recycling centers.
Brandau said Fresno police will, however, likely make enforcing changes to municipal code a priority for only about two months -- to convey the message shopping cart theft will not be tolerated.
"We don't need them clogging up the courts," Brandau said of violators. "The goal is just the shopping cart itself, to send a message that's not going to be acceptable to steal shopping carts in order to steal other stuff."
Both cities already consider shopping cart theft a misdemeanor --punishable in Bakersfield by a fine of up to $500 or up to six months in jail or both. In Fresno, the fine is up to $1,000 and the term is up to a year in jail, or both.
Neither Rivera nor City Attorney Ginny Gennaro said Bakersfield has a cart problem approaching the one in Fresno.
After Rivera first brought the issue forward in November, the city's Solid Waste Department stepped up its efforts to reunite store owners with their carts.
"The ones that they don't want or are just a real problem we'll just take care of them in our rounds," Barnes said, characterizing the number of carts as "a small amount. It's not like there's a full day of (collecting) shopping carts here and there."
Rivera said the Solid Waste Department is doing a good job, but when he spotted delinquent carts on a recent run, he had to restrain himself from taking the law into his own hands.
"It took a lot for me not to try to round them up and push them who knows where," said Rivera, who recently asked Gennaro for copies of Fresno's city staff report and changes to its code. "At the very least, it'd be great to have folks conscious of the issue, conscious of the problem and maybe be a little bit more aware and vigilant of how they use a shopping cart for groceries."
The city attorney said she hasn't heard complaints about abandoned carts, and changes to Bakersfield's municipal code would be cumbersome to enforce and could make the city a more difficult place to do business.
"I think what we're doing is working and yeah, I think there's a lessening of the problem," Gennaro said. "You're always going to see them. It's not a problem, in my mind, that's going to go away completely 100 percent as long as you have shopping carts."