Q: I frequently see homeless people pushing shopping carts filled with personal belongings. Is this illegal?

A: It depends on the shopping cart. Some of the carts are legal and are provided by homeless assistance programs. The programs do this so the homeless have something to carry their belongings in. But the removal of shopping carts owned by markets or other businesses is theft and can fall under one of either two codes, which are both misdemeanors.

Section 22435.2 B&P says, in substance, it is unlawful to be in possession of a shopping cart that has been removed from the business or parking area of the business. In this section the cart must have a permanently affixed sign to it that identifies the owner of the cart or retailer, or both; notifies the public of the procedure to be utilized for authorized removal of the cart from the premises; notifies the public that the unauthorized removal of the cart from the premises or parking area of the business, or the unauthorized possession of the cart is a violation of state law; and lists a valid telephone number or address for returning the cart.

Section 485 PC applies to shopping carts without the affixed sign, it says, in substance, one who finds lost property under circumstances which give him knowledge of or means of inquiry as to the true owner, and who appropriates such property to his own use, or to the use of another person not entitled thereto, without first making reasonable and just efforts to find the owner and to restore the property to him, is guilty of theft.

When officers stop an individual for being in possession of an illegal shopping cart, they can either issue a citation or advise the person about being in possession of the cart. The shopping cart is then picked up by a SMPD park ranger and transported to one of two locations in the city. A cart recovery service then comes and picks up the cart and returns it to the owner.

I recently spoke with a manager at a local major super market who explained the impact of shopping cart theft on the store’s business. In November of 2010 the market purchased 100 new shopping carts and by January of 2011 they were down to 40 shopping carts. He explained that it is a huge expense to not only replace the carts, but also to have cart recovery crews find the carts which were taken out of their lot and returned, which is just as draining on their resources. The cost to replace a shopping cart is between $175 to $250 per cart and the cost of a recovery service to return the cart to the business or market is $12 per cart.

If you do see a shopping cart in your area, and want to be a good neighbor, give the market a call and let them know where they can recover their property. It not only cleans up your neighborhood, but also helps businesses save money, which in turn helps the local economy.

Q: Parking is very limited on our street and there is always a large semi-truck that parks on our block. The truck takes up four to five regular vehicle parking spots and sometimes I have to park several blocks away from my own house. Is there any regulation that prohibits large vehicles from parking in residential neighborhoods?

A: The availability of parking spaces is an ongoing concern in many areas, and I can understand your frustration in having to park several blocks away from your residence. There are two separate codes which apply to oversized vehicles in residential neighborhoods.

The first code is 3.12.860 SMMC, and it states:

Between the hours of 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. on any public street or alley in a residential district, no person shall park any trailer or any vehicle of which any part of the vehicle, together with all fixtures, accessories or property with the exception of a single post radio antennas, measures more than 8 feet in width, or 7-and-one-half feet in height, or 20 feet in length, unless such person shall have a permit for such trailer or vehicle and in no event for a period exceeding two 24-hour periods.

The second code 3.12.870 SMMC states:

No person shall park any commercial vehicle on a public street or alley in a residential district, except in the event of an emergency or for the purpose of loading and unloading, if any part of such commercial vehicle, together with fixtures or property thereon, if any, measures more than 7 feet in width or 7 feet in height.

Should you need the oversized vehicle regulations enforced, you can call the Traffic Services Office of the police department at (310) 458-2226, between the hours of 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. When the Traffic Services Office is closed, you can call our police dispatch at (310) 458-8491.

If you have an oversized vehicle and would like a permit for the vehicle, you should contact the Traffic Services Office. Please keep in mind the permits can only be issued for two 24-hour periods.

This column was prepared by NRO Scott Pace (Beat 2: Lincoln Boulevard to Ocean Front Walk, Interstate 10 to Ozone Avenue). He can be reached at (424) 200-0682 or scott.pace@smgov.net.

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