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Rash Of Stolen Shopping Carts Prompts Store To Issue Notice

By Rick Sallinger

DENVER (CBS4) - Owners of a Denver hardware store have posted a notice on the internet asking neighbors for help finding stolen shopping carts.

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It may sound like a small problem, but the Food Marketing Institute says 2 million carts are stolen a year at a cost of $800 million globally.

For the homeless, a shopping cart can mean a lot. By one near the ACE Hardware at Broadway and Alameda Avenue, CBS4's Rick Sallinger found there was a not-so-polite warning written on a piece of cardboard:

Do not touch or you will die.

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CBS4 interviewed Matthew Silva near the cart and said it belongs to a friend of his. He said such carts are essential to people like him.

"I never thought they would be as important as carrying your groceries out of the store until I became homeless and on the street," Silva said.

But where do all the carts used by homeless people in Denver come from? Well, the ACE store is one source. Employee Betty Nikirk told CBS4 the store recently bought four carts, which brought their total to 10. But that was about a month ago, and now they are back down to six.

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"We lose a lot of them, a lot," Nikirk said. "People come by, take them out of the parking lot, keep walking with them. Some walk out to the light rail. We find them back there."

The carts cost at least $170 each.

There are anti-theft solutions. Some carts have wheels that lock when you try to take them off the lot, but Nikirk says that means a bigger investment.

"Those are really expensive, it costs more than the shopping cart to keep a lock on those so they don't leave the parking lot," she said.

The shopping carts with anti-theft devices are used at the Target in Glendale. The store has warning signs up about their use in their parking lots. CBS4 tried taking a cart out of the lot but the the locking mechanism didn't activate.

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At a King Soopers grocery store at 9th and Corona Street in Denver the devices are also used, and the locking mechanism did trigger when CBS4 tried to take a cart outside the lot.

CBS4's Rick Sallinger is a Peabody award winning reporter who has been with the station more than two decades doing hard news and investigative reporting. Follow him on Twitter @ricksallinger.

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