Shawnee city commissioners are struggling to work out the details of a proposed shopping cart ordinance.
The item was first discussed at a committee meeting the first week of September, then again on the 20th and was postponed, and was discussed at length again this week – only to be postponed again.
Acting City Manager Eric Benson said the logic behind the recommended addition to the city’s code is to give Shawnee Police Department (SPD) officers a way to handle shopping cart traffic.
In an attempt to address a growing problem in the community — one the commission has expressed as a priority, Benson said, it looked at other cities and their mechanisms for dealing with the problem of shopping carts being used throughout the community. for things other than their intended use. .
“We have a problem with transporting materials to or from our community; I received more than a few complaints about it,” he said. “This gives us the ability to enforce the misuse of these items.”
Benson said that without the order, there is currently no way to investigate whether the carts are stolen property.
He said there is currently no local clearance for police to examine – let alone possess – these carts.
“It gives us the mechanism to ask that question,” he said.
By definition, according to the ordinance, that would mean shopping carts cannot be used for any other reason, he said.
“I have mixed emotions about this,” Mayor Ed Bolt said.
Ward 3 City Commissioner Travis Flood asked how the proposed misdemeanor-level sentence would affect violators.
City Attorney Joe Vorndran said he would leave it up to a judge to issue a citation.
Two elements of the original draft of the ordinance are: (1) if a police officer decided to issue a citation, it would result in a fine; and (2) the primary function is the ability to confiscate the cart and return it to the rightful owner, which he said the city does not currently have the ability to do.
Ward 1 City Commissioner Daniel Matthews asked what the protocol would be for a cart full of stuff.
“You show up to repossess, what happens to things?” He asked. “If we just throw him out on the street, we’ve made the problem worse.”
Vorndran said he doesn’t think the order, as written, directly answers that question.
“I think it really comes down to officers’ discretion,” he said.
Benson said if an officer sees a shopping cart — or 10 — in a backyard, there is currently no mechanism for the officer to come in to ask that question.
“This (order) gives them that discretion,” he said. “We’re trying to answer the larger question, how do we deal with this issue; we’re not saying we want to make the less fortunate criminals.
But, he said, there are those who profit from the use of shopping carts.
An earlier version of the order would have placed some responsibility – and liability – on owners of shopping carts found offsite. This part was deleted in this week’s version of the proposal.
Matthews suggested adding language to the order that would allow for the voluntary surrender of a basket in question, as an alternative to a citation.
“I think we take up a lot of time in the justice system,” he said. “I’m all for giving the police a tool, but… where does this bureaucracy end?”
Bolt expressed concern about the unintended consequences of the order.
Most council members remained unsatisfied with pursuing any action on the proposal, although Ward 5 City Commissioner Mark Sehorn voted no on a second postponement. The point was postponed with the commissioners voting 5-1.
Watch for updates.
For story ideas, questions or concerns, reporter Vicky O. Misa can be reached at [email protected]