Vallejo's latest war on blight will target abandoned store shopping carts standing like silent sentinels in front of bus stops, inside homeless encampments and along back alleys.

A city abandoned shopping cart ordinance has been on the books since 2005, and the city Code Enforcement Division has begun tracking complaints to specific stores.

"If it's not becoming a problem for the stores, it's definitely becoming a problem for the community," Code Enforcement Manager Nimat Shakoor-Grantham said Wednesday. "We want to be business-friendly, but we have to think of the community, we have to think of the neighbors, too."

Initially, creation of the ordinance was championed by former City Councilwoman Joanne Schivley, who said in a recent interview that the abandoned boxy silver cages were blooming like mushrooms citywide.

"It's rewarding to see a relatively simple, common sense ordinance being enforced," Schivley said when contacted about the new enforcement. "One area of blight and safety that some of the other trash isn't a problem for is shopping carts rolling out on the streets; being hit and being moved by cars and striking people.

"So, they have a danger to them that plastic bags and large beverage paper containers don't have."

The ordinance makes illegal the removal of a shopping cart from a business' property, at the same time as it makes the business responsible for care of the carts.

Businesses without cart wheel-locking mechanisms were required by the ordinance to submit cart theft prevention plans -- including a mandatory provision to retrieve carts within 24 hours of being notified. Business owners were also required to attach signs with their names and contact numbers to each cart.

Shakoor-Grantham said this is the first time the ordinance had needed to be enforced since its implementation, thanks to a spike in public complaints. Earlier, she said, the issue was a lower department priority, and seemed to draw fewer complaints in past years.

For comparison, Times-Herald reports show that about 135 abandoned cart complaints were made in 2003, and more than 100 in 2005. Just since Oct. 21 of this year, there have been 55 complaints, Shakoor-Grantham said. She did not have comprehensive numbers for the entire year.

"It's amazing how much blight the appearance of an outside shopping cart makes -- it really looks bad," Shakoor-Grantham said. "We probably have to revisit all the plans; we definitely have to make sure all of the store managers are up to date on what their responsibility is."

Although its provisions have not been enforced yet, the ordinance calls for an annual evaluation report from each business. More than three abandoned cart complaints within a six-month period is grounds for a reworking of businesses' plan and could lead to required wheel locks on their carts.

Shakoor-Grantham said complaints have been rolling in from places like the Chamber of Commerce during a tour they recently gave city officials, or Valcore Community Recycling Center, where recyclables are often carted in. Carts lined up at bus stops near grocery stores and shopping plazas are a common location, as well, Shakoor-Grantham said.

To help the city track abandoned shopping cart issues, Shakoor-Grantham is asking the public to call Code Enforcement at 648-4469 or email cenforcement@ci.vallejo.ca.us.

Contact staff writer Jessica A. York at (707) 553-6834 or jyork@timesheraldonline.com. Follow her on Twitter @JYVallejo.