KAMLOOPS — RCMP say they have spent the summer cracking down on stolen shopping carts, the majority used by the Kamloops homeless population to store and transport their possessions.
Cpl. Jodi Shelkie says in the spring, police noticed an increase in complaints from businesses that their carts were being stolen.
"Earlier this spring, we surveyed numerous businesses and learned that most of them said they do suffer customer inconvenience due to a lack of carts available because they've been stolen, and they also have a financial loss from the stolen carts that are never recovered," said Shelkie.
"We've also received reports from other business owners indicating that the people who were using the shopping carts were blocking customers from accessing their stores and forcing people to leave the sidewalks when they're walking down the sidewalks in front of stores."
Shelkie says the RCMP gave the homeless population plenty of notice before a campaign of confiscation was contemplated.
"In conjunction with some community partners, we sent out a message to people to let them know that there should be a voluntary return of these carts to businesses," she said. "We also made arrangements with (Kamloops Bylaw Services) to facilitate that, if the person was returning the cart and they had a lot of items in the cart, the City would store their items for two weeks free of charge until they were able to find alternative solutions."
"We want to be as fair as possible to the people who use these carts. That's why we gave as much notice as we could and gave verbal warnings to people who were possessing the stolen property. However, at the end of the day, these are shopping carts that are stolen property and the stores want them back."
"We gave plenty of time for them to work out what an alternative way would be for them to transport their belongings without using stolen properties. Ultimately, when we have people saying, 'They've stolen our property and we want it back,' as the police, we have to follow through with that."
Beginning in June, officers began seizing carts and returning them to the original businesses.
A total of 33 carts have been seized to date.
Shelkie says one individual has had seven different carts confiscated.
RCMP are encouraging homeless people to find other vehicles for transporting their items, but it's unclear what alternatives would be realistic.
"I guess that would be personal preference, but I guess anything with wheels - whether it's a wagon or a baby buggy or something like that," said Shelkie. "Anything with wheels that would hold their possessions. Whatever they find that works for them the best."
"I can't speak for people who use the shopping carts, but we have noticed that people who have had their shopping carts taken away are starting to use alternative methods of transporting their belongings. That would be that they're using wagons and baby buggies and things like that."
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