Your View: The legacy of the shopping cart on local public safety

Your View: The legacy of the shopping cart on local public safety

By Dino Drudi, Alexandria

To the editor:
Earlier this summer, I noticed an abandoned shopping cart sitting behind Jefferson-Houston School, so after a few days I dragged it home and called the city’s service line. I have no idea how a shopping cart found its way miles from that chain’s nearest store. Later, an official from the Alexandria Police Department called back, saying they had alerted the store manager, who would send someone by to pick it up.

Three days later, it was still sitting in front of my house and had not yet been picked up, so I dragged it to the nearest DASH bus stop, but the driver wouldn’t let me on — he even confirmed with his dispatcher — because it couldn’t be collapsed and could block the bus’ aisle.

So I dragged it to the Metro station, where the Metrobus driver was more lenient after I explained the shopping cart was getting off before I did. I had to put my leg through the cart to keep it from rolling around when the bus accelerated or decelerated, went up- or downhill, or turned a corner, vaguely reminding me of what had happened, some decades ago, when I had brought a Halloween pumpkin I had bought on the bus.

When the bus stopped in front of the store, I kicked the cart out so it rolled into the store’s entryway patio. Apparently, the store hadn’t missed it while it was gone, couldn’t be bothered to take it back, and wouldn’t notice it any more than just another shopping cart now that it has returned.

The park across from where I used to live in D.C. found itself with a similar problem. For whatever reason, shopping carts from a shopping center over a mile away found their way to the park.

I called the police, who — initially at least — gave me a number to call some outfit that collects and returns shopping carts, but the carts kept collecting in the middle of the park, so I dragged them into my back yard.

Eventually, after I raised the topic at a community meeting, the police sent an officer who loaded them into his police van and returned them. Around this time, the neighborhood had started to experience a spike in homicides — eventually amounting to 15 in a decade in a five-block radius of my house.

I am an unwavering devotee of the broken windows theory and believe few things scream “neighborhood that doesn’t give a hoot” more than abandoned shopping carts.