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Tampa council sees an eyesore, moves to restrict shopping carts

The City Council unanimously passed an ordinance Thursday requiring stores to put their name, address and phone number on shopping carts.

The measure also mandates that stores post signs that say stealing a shopping cart is a violation of state law.

It is meant to force stores to be more responsible for their carts, which can end up littering neighborhoods after customers wheel them home.

Homeless advocates opposed the ordinance, saying it would lead to more arrests of homeless people who use the carts to push around their possessions. An ordinance in Hillsborough County passed last year has not resulted in more arrests, only fewer wayward grocery carts, according to the Hillsborough Sheriff's Office.

"This has been brewing a long time," council member Rose Ferlita said before the vote. "This had nothing to do with the homeless. It's about beautifying the neighborhood."

Richard Formica came to City Hall to see if the measure would pass. He said he wrote to Ferlita about stray shopping carts in his Temple Crest neighborhood, near Busch Gardens.

"They're an eyesore," said Formica, 62. "They are a hazard because kids play on them . . . and if you ever struck one with your car, the $100 shopping car does $5,000 worth of damage."

Formica said he hopes officers start making arrests for stealing shopping carts. He said he frequently calls stores to retrieve their carts.

"They keep turning up," he said.

_ Kathryn Wexler can be reached at (813) 226-3383.