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Lodi police make nine arrests, retrieve 70 shopping carts

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Posted: Wednesday, November 30, 2005 10:00 pm

At least 30 Lodi police officers, parole agents and probation officers took to the city's streets Wednesday, searching homes in problem areas and later collecting abandoned shopping carts.

By day's end, police had arrested nine people, were looking for several more suspects, had picked up 70 shopping carts and conducted numerous probation searches.

The first half of the sting, dubbed "Operation Clean Sweep," focused on a mobile home park and apartment complexes on the Eastside where police are regularly called, Sgt. Chris Piombo said.

The goal, he said, was to focus on "improving the quality of life" in the area.

Not only did police arrest six people on various drug, parole and weapons charges, but they soon found a large collection of possibly stolen property.

The items included a brand-new Honda scooter with only two miles on the odometer, a clarinet, opened mail believed to be stolen a year ago, stereos, a late-model Apple laptop computer, a Ninja Turtles costume and a stuffed boar's head.

Later Wednesday, officers shifted the focus to the abundance of shopping carts left on the streets.

The operation came three months after police collected 132 carts in a similar sting in alleys on Lodi's Eastside.

"It gets out of hand," Detective Dale Eubanks said of the cart problem. "They start collecting on street corners, they get pushed out in traffic, they just become garbage bins on wheels."

Officers and employees from Central Valley Waste Management also cleaned up areas where homeless people frequently camp.

A Lodi police officer places handcuffs on a young woman during a Wednesday parole sweep at the Oasis International Motel, 736 S. Cherokee Lane. (Jennifer M. Howell/News-Sentinel)

They were accompanied by Major Frank Severs of the Lodi Salvation Army, who was ready to offer shelter assistance to those who were displaced.

Most, however, weren't interested in the agency's free services, Severs said.

"They have to be clean and sober, and be part of a therapeutic community," he added while visiting a camp near the railroad trestle along the Mokelumne River.

"For the ones that want to change, they can change."

Those who don't want to change are often the ones who cause problems, according to Lt. Chet Somera.

"We're out here looking for the people ripping off our community," he said.

Many load up shopping carts with recyclable materials, then abandon the carts after turning in the goods at recycling centers, Somera said.

A boar's head was among the items found in a storage unit believed to contain stolen items. A search of a parolee led Lodi police to the storage unit. (Jennifer M. Howell/News-Sentinel)

Between recycling and begging for money on street corners and outside stores, some ambitious transients can make between $15 and $30 an hour, Severs said.

The day's other three arrests came during the shopping cart sweep, when two transients were arrested for being drunk in public, Eubanks said.

Another man was stopped because he was pushing a shopping cart full of belongings, and was then arrested when officers found a drug pipe on him.

Overall, the day was considered a success, police said.

"When this many officers descend on a location, it sends a message," Piombo said.

Contact reporter Layla Bohm at layla@lodinews.com.

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