You may be surprised to learn that Arizona has a state law that specifically prohibits theft of shopping carts.
It’s true. The law makes it a class 3 misdemeanor to take a store’s shopping cart off the property, even temporarily.
Police in the area don’t generally enforce this law, however.
“Prescott Valley Police Department has not enforced this (Arizona Revised Statute) code to my knowledge,” said Sgt. Jason Kaufman, PVPD spokesman, but then again, he said, “I do not recall anyone ever reporting a stolen shopping cart.”
He added, “When we see people with shopping carts, we stop and talk to them and advise them to return the carts.”
The state law is very specific; it requires the cart to have “a sign permanently affixed to it that identifies the owner,” and that sign must include:
• information on how carts can be legally removed from the premises;
• a warning that taking them otherwise is illegal;
• the phone number and address of the owner so it can be returned.
If all that isn’t permanently marked on the cart, the law doesn’t apply.
Of course, stealing is still stealing, and Chief Deputy County Attorney Dennis McGrane said that taking a cart not properly marked would “leave the theft under the traditional theft statute.”
A shopping cart generally costs about $125, according to the Arizona Food Marketing Alliance, but add-ons, like drink holders and child safety harnesses, increase the cost,
Asked about the state cart law, McGrane said, “I’ve never personally heard of such a prosecution,” but noted that most misdemeanors are prosecuted by city attorneys, not his office.
Prescott Valley Town Attorney Ivan Legler said, “I’m not aware of that being something that is regularly prosecuted.”
“We have not, in recent years, prosecuted anyone under the statute,” Prescott City
Attorney Jon Paladini said. “We have not had any complaints from the grocery stores
about carts going missing,” although he added that, several years ago, “there was a
problem at one of the Safeways but that was resolved and we have not had any issues
As you might expect, this is a much larger problem in Phoenix, where the city has had a cart-retrieval program for 10 years. It’s recovered 35,000 stolen carts, and the numbers of carts left on the streets have dropped from 10,000 collected in 2007 to just over 2,100 in 2016.
The Arizona Food Marketing Alliance said that about 40 percent of Phoenix grocery store shopping carts now have locking wheels that make them much tougher to take away from the store.