Abandoned Shopping Carts

Following discussion at our CNC meeting on April 7, 2011, the board approved sending the following letter to our City Council Members:

April 7, 20011

Dear Tacoma City Council Members,

It is by request of the Central Neighborhood Council (CNC) this letter is written requesting the City of Tacoma make Abandoned Shopping Carts a citywide priority of safety, cleanliness and attractiveness. It is the objective of the CNC the City develops a plan, which prevents the removal of shopping carts from grocery store property.

Abandoned shopping carts are becoming an increasing problem citywide.  Shopping carts are being removed from grocery store property and are taken many blocks and in some cases miles from their original location. These carts are being abandoned in ditches, bus stops, and private property, driveways, and sidewalks, middle of the road and in one case, the Foss waterway. Preventing Tacoma as being seen as safe, clean and attractive abandoned shopping carts ultimately present Tacoma as an unwelcoming city – driving away new homeowners or businesses.

The CNC recognizes this is not a problem found solely in the CNC boundaries. These abandoned shopping carts cause blight among our City’s neighborhoods, business districts, parks, and negatively impact Tacoma’s environment.   Whether in the North end, Hilltop, Downtown, Eastside or Southside, this issue is present and growing.

The current solution offered by the City to deal with abandoned shopping carts is to have individual citizens call a private vendor to pick up abandoned carts. This solution is not only unknown by the great majority of Tacoma citizens, it does not provide a preventive aspect.   By the number of abandoned shopping carts found around Tacoma, it is evident this solution is insufficient in dealing with this growing problem. The City of Tacoma needs to take action.

We recognize that there is many reasons shopping carts are taken off the property of grocers, including lack of public or private transportation.  But, ultimately, we feel this issue is too important to be ignored.

The CNC is willing to work with the City to achieve the objective of the City Creating a Preventative Plan for Abandoned shopping carts.  Please do not hesitate to contact the Central Neighborhood Council with questions and or concerns.


Tricia DeOme, Chair, & Justin D. Leighton, Interim Secretary

Central Neighborhood Council

The following newspaper articles were published about the CNC bringing to the attention of City officials the abandoned shopping cart problem:



The News Tribune published an article about the City of Lakewood wrestling with the abandoned shopping cart problem:


On June 23, 2011, the Tacoma City Council's Public Safety, Human Services, and Education Committee began discussing the problem of abandoned shopping carts. For minutes of that meeting, click hereCity officials will begin a dialog with the local retailers and their trade associations about ways to address the problem.


The article linked above about Lakewood refers to "shopping cart theft" law (that Lakewood adopted in its code by reference to RCW 9A.56.270), noting that it’s cumbersome and difficult to enforce because it requires that each cart be precisely labeled.


Tacoma Municipal Code section 8.37.090  Shopping cart theft.
RCW 9A.56.270, as now enacted or hereinafter amended, is hereby adopted by reference as though fully set forth herein, including penalties.
(Ord. 27842 Ex. A; passed Oct. 20, 2009)

Revised Code of Washington RCW section 9A.56.270 Shopping cart theft.

(1) It is unlawful to do any of the following acts, if a shopping cart has a permanently affixed sign as provided in subsection (2) of this section:
         (a) To remove a shopping cart from the parking area of a retail establishment with the intent to deprive the owner of the shopping cart the use of the cart; or
         (b) To be in possession of any shopping cart that has been removed from the parking area of a retail establishment with the intent to deprive the owner of the shopping cart the use of the cart.

(2) This section shall apply only when a shopping cart: (a) Has a sign permanently affixed to it that identifies the owner of the cart or the retailer, or both; (b) notifies the public of the procedure to be utilized for authorized removal of the cart from the premises; (c) notifies the public that the unauthorized removal of the cart from the premises or parking area of the retail establishment, or the unauthorized possession of the cart, is unlawful; and (d) lists a telephone number or address for returning carts removed from the premises or parking area to the owner or retailer.

(3) Any person who violates any provision of this section is guilty of a misdemeanor.  [1985 c 382 § 2.]


On September 22, 2011, the Tacoma City Council's Public Safety, Human Services, and Education Committee discussed strategies for addressing the problem of abandoned shopping carts. The three documents that were handed out and discussed at that meeting may be downloaded -- click here (1)here (2), and here (3).  The News Tribune ran a front-page article about that meeting on Sept. 26, 2011 -- click here.



On October 16, 2011, the News Tribune published a guest editorial about the problems of abandoned shopping carts authored by our CNC secretary, Justin Leighton.  Click here to see it.

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