FEDERAL WAY, Wash. -- Abandoned shopping carts are an eyesore in Federal Way and could potentially cost businesses thousands each month.
To combat the problem, the Federal Way Police Department started the “Federal Way Shopping Recovery Team,” which is run by volunteers.
Using an old police cruiser with a trailer attached, Frank Gabreluk and John McLaren roam the city up to six hours a day, two days a week.
“Our primary goal is to get the abandoned carts that are in obvious view to the city residents,” said Gabreluk.
According to the police department, volunteers collect up to 500 carts a month.
“It’s amazing where we find some of these. Weyerhaeuser’s corporate pond, we found them at the transit center, parking stalls where they literally take up two spaces full of them,” said McLaren.
“Most of the carts we collect are closer to apartment complexes. Individuals that don’t use public transportation and don’t have the means to get to and from stores, so they will use the carts to take their supplies,” said Gabreluk.
The volunteers estimate the average cost of a cart at $130, totaling $780,000 in prevented losses a year to businesses.
Volunteers recovered 78 carts for H-Mart, a local Asian grocery store, in June.
“If they knew how much we paid for each cart, they would think about it. Right now they just take and don’t care about it,” said Roland Aguirre, a manager in training.
According to Federal Way Police, volunteers brought back 768 carts in two years. The effort not only spares replacement costs, but also resources for the store.
“It’s important for us because we have to pay someone to do that. One of the guys has to go around which means spending money on gas, we pay the people per hour,” said Aguirre.
The goal of the program is to enhance the perception and quality of life in the city. Gabreluk and McLaren, who have lived in the Federal Way for decades, say it’s their way to give back.
“It’s my home, I want to keep it nice,” said McLaren.
McLaren and Gabreluk, who are approaching their third year as volunteers, have adopted a saying.
“In Federal Way you can roll, but you’d better be careful - you can’t hide from John and Frank,” said Gabreluk.
The program is completely paid for by the police department, which admits is a band-aid for a problem that’s not going away.
Many retailers have installed sensors that lock shopping cart wheels if they’re taken off property, but Gabreluk and McLaren say it doesn’t always work.