Thursday, August 25, 2011

Solicitation in Dunwoody - changes need to be made.

Within the last month I have read to many horror stories of door to door solicitors who come at odd hours, are pushy, belligerent and just plain won't take no for an answer.  Today was the breaking point for me after reading yet another neighbors plea for help; I am looking to make the city ordinances tougher as I believe there are a few holes I want plugged.

Please note that the City of Dunwoody already has a relatively tough solicitation ordinance on the books where some of our neighbors do not even regulate the practice.  I do not believe we can outlaw door to door soliciting but we can regulate it within our boundaries by requiring a permit and enforcing the rules of operation.  Dunwoody currently issues a permit which is only good for six months, there is a detailed application process requiring full fingerprinting and law enforcement background check and once approved the solicitor must wear the permit (which includes their photo) and only operate between the hours of 10 am to 7 pm, Monday thru Saturday.

I believe we need to improve the enforcement of the current ordinances and need the revocation procedures to be broadened.  For example in today's example the resident had a "No Solicitation" sign taped above the door bell and yet this solicitor banged on the door like he was trying to break it down, clearly in violation of  Dunwoody code 10-93 (b) which does not permit a solicitor to disturb the resident when such a sign is posted.

I wish the City could revoke this permit for operating outside the hours allowed as well as contacting a resident with a "No Soliciting" sign but the police were not involved in this case, nor was the person cited, therefore there will not be a "conviction" which is needed for revocation and penalty.  I believe we need a process to push the photos of these door to door solicitors (along with some application information) to the web so that residents can easily identify the pushy, belligerent door to door salesman in order to file a complaint which might then initiate a city permit review and revocation process.  We need a system in place to protect our residents from being harassed by door to door security system salesman who purposely make residents feel ill at ease with their hard sell approach and I am just not sure if a regulatory change is needed or just more enforcement of what is on the books?  In reviewing a number of other city ordinances on the subject, I believe both are needed therefore I will be requesting a regulatory review of the ordinance as well as talking to the City Manager and Police Chief about the application and enforcement of what is already on the books.  I do not want to live in a nanny state but based on the complaints I am receiving, something more needs to be done.  If you ever feel uncomfortable because of the actions of anyone who approaches your door, please do not hesitate to call 911.

I would like the following reasons included for revocation.
Conducting solicitation activities in such a manner as to create a public nuisance or constitute a danger to the public health, safety or welfare.

Conducting solicitation activities contrary to the conditions of this ordinance or the permit
I would also like the following Exemptions included.
The following solicitors are exempt from the provisions of this article pertaining to obtaining a license, paying a fee, obtaining an identification badge, and posting a bond:

(1)    Minors under the age of eighteen (18) engaged in the solicitation of donations or the sale of any type of property for the purpose of financing extracurricular social, athletic, artistic, scientific or cultural programs, provided that such solicitation activities shall have been approved by the principal of the school sponsoring such social, athletic, artistic, scientific or cultural programs.

(2)    Political candidates engaged in the solicitation of campaign contributions provided that at the time of such solicitation, each such candidate has formally qualified and is seeking election to a local, state or national elective office.

(3)    Non-profit, tax exempt, charitable organizations and churches.
What other suggestions do you have regarding the matter?

PS: do you need any magazines?


Sight Edman said...

Quite frankly I don't understand why anyone feels they have the right to step foot on my property without my permission or consent. That includes folks selling products, services, or religion, and children and politicians begging for handouts. It also includes law enforcement w/o a warrant and code enforcement w/o an appointment. Off the top, the only folks with implied consent are the fire department.

SDOC Publishing Internet Solutions said...

I learned a while ago that it's OK to scream your bloody head off when someone gets in your personal space and you feel uneasy. I'm sure I've saved my own life a couple of times. Raising the "NO" a few decibles followed by "POLICE!!! 9-1-1!!!" as loud as you can discourages even the most persistent solicitor - or potential criminal.

barb1531 said...

Our condo complex has multiple "No Soliciting" signs at the entrance and along the drive that are universally ignored by all types of solicitors. It would be good if signs of that type are included in whatever ordinance covers individual homeowners' doorways.

Then there's the type of solicitor, often from a cable company, who have a list of the company's customers. They may or may not have an appointment with one customer, but then they feel free to approach all other residents as well. And these folks don't even bother with getting permits, relying instead on the one, probably non-existent, customer appointment.

Susan said...

Regarding your proposed exemption for "minors under the age of 18": perhaps the wording could be changed to something that would cover all students enrolled in high school, as many seniors and even some juniors are over age 17. Wouldn't want to see an 18 year old senior busted for participating in the band fundraiser to earn money to go on the spring trip.

Jack said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jack said...

I think there should be NO exemptions. I don't make any when someone comes on my property without my invitation and I'm not particularly friendly when I send them packing.

SDOC Publishing Internet Solutions said...

Not too long ago I put an essay on my blog about how a privately-run community marketplace would benefit the City. The Green Market, other independent vendors, solicitors who would otherwise go door to door could set up a space and sell. It could cut down on soliciting at private homes and stay in line with the zoning laws.

Maybe you can't prohibit door-to-door sales but you can discourage it (and encourage an alternative) due to the fact a criminal element uses it for cover.

Joe Hirsch said...

John, while offering studying the matter is a good thing, recall the disastrous wordings of the sign regulations that went before council. There were soooo many First Amendment violations it was frightening. I caution that some of your ideas here are just as worrisome. Before your suggestions reach a vote, I sure hope the city will actually consider the legalities - so we won't waste as much time and money again: Proposing only formal candidates be permitted door-to-door for political speech is an absolute chilling infringement on speech. (And you know I would consider creating a non-profit organization just to knock on council members doors.) I’m glad you are taking suggestions; it seems like better enforcement of our current code could alleviate some of the complaints.

Jack said...

If someone knocks on my door to solicit anything, they are trespassing. They meet my dog up close and personal.

Chip said...

Actually, I'd only make one small addition to the current ordinance, and that would be to amend the section that requires the solicitor to have the permit on his person. Instead, I'd require the solicitor have the permit visible ( by issuing an identification badge of some sort with an large-print ref number) and then running a public service campaign that advises all the folks in Dunwoody to demand the solicitor exhibit this permit prior to continuing the discussions.

The exceptions for schools, politicians, etc. seem reasonable and typical.

Just like the sign ordinance, enforcement is the critical component. Whatever you do, John, you'll have to back up with some $$$ for code enforcement, or whatever you write into law is all but useless.


Anon said...

Is it code enforcement or the police? We have been told to call 911 when a suspicious solicitor is spotted.

Code enforcement might not be around at 7:30 at night!

John Heneghan said...

City is moving fast to discuss and then amend the regulations on Door to Door Solicitation and it is on the agenda for Monday's City Council Meeting.

Updated Proposal for Monday Meeting

The main change is the time period, proposing a 3 month vs the current 6 month permit. My other suggestions are either in the current ordinance or can be done via policy. Look for a good discussion on the points I raised especially on revocation and harassment.

If any Solicitor ever makes you uncomfortable, please call 911 immediately.

Joe Hirsch said...

I am very glad the proposed First Read has now dropped the above suggested attempts at curbing political speech! Congrats to Brian Anderson I think

GaryRayBetz said...

Sorry folks, but I really can't support a much more restrictive "No Solicitation" ordinance, because if the economy gets any worse for my family I'll be having to put on a short skirt and strut up and down tavern row on Ashford-Dunwoody just to keep paying my four kids' college tuition.

And trust me, that will not be a pretty sight - so, hideous in fact that the city will wish that it had allowed billboards - and big ones at that!!!

John Heneghan said...

Solicitation Ordinance Changes

Sep 26th Version of the Solicitation Ordinance