FEDERAL WAY, Wash. — Federal Way City Council Members voted 5-2 to amend the city’s shopping cart ordinance on Tuesday.
The change will make it illegal for people to push or possess a shopping cart on sidewalks or places that obstruct right of way.
Council member Jack Walsh, who proposed the change, says shopping cart theft and abandonment is an issue in the city. He said many members of the public came to him about the issue and that he met with the general managers of seven or eight large stores in the area before proposing the changes.
“Shopping cart theft is so big that we have somebody whose entire job is collecting the shopping carts,” said Council Member Walsh.
He said most people pushing carts on the sidewalks are homeless.
“It’s a largely a homeless population that many of them have addictions or mental health problems,” said Walsh. “And it's really not compassionate to them to encourage that lifestyle."
But two council members, including Hoang Tran who used to be homeless, voted against the ordinance. Council Member Lydia Assefa-Dawson voted against the ordinance as well.
"I feel like we are targeting a group of vulnerable people in the community,” said Council Member Tran during the November 15 meeting. “I feel like this ordinance is intended to drive homeless people out of the city without providing any meaningful help."
Officers from the Special Operations Unit of Federal Way Police will be enforcing the law. If someone breaks it, they will face a civil infraction, owe $50 and have to go to community court.
“We're not trying to penalize those who are who have the carts,” said Walsh. “We're trying to reduce theft, make the city more attractive, and encourage those people to receive services as well.”
The ordinance allows for the cart and its belongings to be confiscated, but Walsh said ideally police would have bags and those people could keep their belongings.
“If they're not able to take their belongings, then we would go ahead and store their belongings for them, for I think up to 90 days for them to come and retrieve their belongings,” said Walsh.
The cost of enforcing this amended ordinance will be $250,000 per year, but Walsh believes it will cost less and says the cost is expected to go down each year.
The ordinance will go into effect in just less than a month.