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Ordinance would fine Milwaukee stores for having shopping carts stolen

Milwaukee grocery stores could soon be facing big fines for allowing shopping carts to leave their property. 

Alderwoman Chantia Lewis is behind the proposal, as part of an effort to eliminate abandoned shopping carts throughout the city.

    "They have become an unwelcome blight," she says. "Carts, carts, carts, they're everywhere." 

The proposal would fine businesses up to $250 for each shopping cart found off their property. It would apply to any business with more than 25 shopping carts.

    "If you put mechanisms in place to prevent them from being stolen, that will keep people from taking them," she says. 

Certain big box stores like Walmart and Target use wheel-lock devices, which automatically activate once the cart leaves the property.

Others, like Aldi, require a 25 cent deposit to use a cart.

    "It could be a really simple fix, or it could be something sophisticated to keep your investment safe, and our neighborhoods clean," says Lewis. 

At certain El Rey locations, shoppers are required to trade in their driver's license to use a cart. 

The local grocery chain experimented with wheel-locking devices in the past, but found them expensive and unreliable. 

    "We did not find that it was an effective way to control the problem," says Store Manager Nelson Lang. "At the time it was expensive, and I'm sure it's more expensive now." 

Shopping carts can cost between $150-$200, so Lang says it's a big hit when they're not returned.

One of their stores had more than 30 carts stolen last year, at a price tag of $6,000, according to Lang. 

Lewis says DPW workers are tasked with collecting, and returning abandoned carts, a hit that shouldn't fall on taxpayers. 

    "The onus should be on the companies," she says. 

Lang says he's open to suggestions from the city, but says fining stores isn't the answer. 

    "I don't like being fined for the actions of our customers," he says. "I just hope they have solutions and not just fines they're placing. How are they going to help us resolve the problem?" 

Lewis is asking community members and business owners to attend a Public Safety Committee meeting at 9.a.m. on November 20th at City Hall. 

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