Store owners hunt neighborhoods for stolen carts as more homeless roll in

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DENVER -- The owners of a local hardware store say they spend hours canvasing neighborhoods for their stolen shopping carts as more disappear because homeless people have made their way into the area.

Andy Carlson and his wife have owned and operated the Ace Hardware near Broadway and Alameda Avenue for years.

They've had issues with stolen shopping carts in the past, but now it's gotten considerably worse as more homeless people have come into the area.

"We're down half since the end of April. It's the fastest we have ever lost that many carts," Carlson said. "This is our busiest time of year and we've only got six carts right now."

Carlson said it has a big impact on his business. The carts cost $170 apiece and as a small business, losing almost $2,000 of carts a year has an impact.

"If you figure the average hardware store makes 3 to 4 percent net profit, we have to sell thousands of dollars of stuff to make up $170 in lost carts," Carlson said.

"Ultimately, that's going to make your prices higher because the more costs we have, the harder it is for us to make it every day. We're a small business, mom-and-pop business."

Carlson and his wife spend hours driving around and searching for stolen carts that normally end up near dumpsters, in alleys or near the light rail station.

"We have found them all the way up to Sixth Avenue," Carlson said. "We've found them in the Platte River, way down by the river."

The couple have considered purchasing technology that locks a cart's wheels if someone tries to take it off the property.

At the time, they decided against purchasing it for the business because it was expensive and their parking lot is expansive. However, after the rise in stolen carts, they're reconsidering.

"It might be worth it if we looked at it over a 10-year period, maybe it will pay for itself," Carlson said.

For now, Carlson said neighbors and customers report cart sightings.

"If we go out quickly after we got the tip, we probably get it 80 percent of the time. If we let any time lapse, someone picks it up and takes it further away," Carlson said.

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