Opinion: Is Oneonta, New York Teetering on the Brink Due to Shopping Cart Siege?
The way the Oneonta Common Council presents the issue, it would seem that the City of Oneonta is inundated with stolen shopping carts, causing a rash of eyesores and urban decay. So much so that there's an ordinance in the pipeline that would instantly make the practice of absconding with a shopping cart an illegal act within the city.
New York State Law Already On the Books Concerning Cart Theft
General Business Law - GBS § 399-q speaks to the use of carts, cases, trays, baskets, boxes and other containers. An excerpt of the law:
"It is unlawful to willingly or knowingly with the intent to deprive the owner of a container of possession:
a. remove a container from the premises or parking area of any retail establishment, or to be in possession of a container that has been removed from the premises or parking area of a retail establishment, if a container has the name or mark prominently displayed and permanently affixed to it that identifies the owner of the container, notifies the public that the unauthorized removal of the container from the premises or parking area, or the unauthorized possession of the container, is a violation of state law, and lists a telephone number or address for returning the container to the owner"
Break this law, and you won't be looking at hard time in the clink, get busted and you'll be facing a civil penalty of not more than one hundred dollars. Oneonta looked to Ithaca for inspiration. In that city, an ordinance specific to shopping carts lists penalties of $10 for the first such violation and no less than $25 nor more than $50.
Do City Businesses Offer Shopping Carts?
Within the City of Oneonta, Dollar General offers their signature bright yellow shopping carts. Their neighbors Rite Aid and Walgreens also have shopping carts. I spoke with representatives from both pharmacies, and each have noted fluctuations in the number of carts available. A Walgreens employee told me that they recently acquired 10 shopping carts, 5 have disappeared. That's not a whole lot of Walgreens carts out in the wild.
Sure, carts are coming to the city from southside businesses, but it seems like it would be a whole lot of effort to move a cart from point A to point B.
Who is the Real Target Here?
At the end of the day, this seems like yet another swipe at the unhoused and poor population in Oneonta. Who else would need to utilize shopping carts away from a retail business? Some folks who have fallen on hard times carry all of their possessions in these carts. Can you imagine a shopping cart gestapo on Main St: uniformed officers chasing down people with shopping carts, dumping them out, taking them away, and issuing a fine? Don't the cops have better things to do, like focus on actual crimes?
Is this Really Where We're At?
Are stolen shopping carts really what local government needs to be focusing on right now? There are a slew of other issues that need laser focused attention such as the unhoused and addicted, the parking, derelict buildings, and so on. Perhaps this is some kind of distraction. Driving around downtown and surrounding neighborhoods, I have not seen piles of derelict and abandoned shopping carts. In my opinion, we can do so much better.