The West U City Council has asked city staff to look into additional ways to strengthen the city’s current solicitor’s ordinance.
Council directed staff to look into how other cities have tightened their solicitor’s ordinance during a workshop on Monday night.
Councilmember George Boehme requested the workshop session to discuss the city’s door-to-door solicitor’s ordinance and to see if there are any additional provisions that can be added to the existing ordinance.
“I continually hear from people, questions about our solicitor’s ordinance,” Boehme said. “To a lot of residents, this is a concern to them.”
The city currently requires solicitors to apply for a permit at the police station, abide by the city’s do-not-disturb list and “wear an easily readable identification badge while engaging in such solicitation.”
Any person or organization that violates the city’s code of ordinances regarding soliciting can be fined up to $500 for each violation.
The city may refuse to issue a permit or may revoke a permit if an applicant has provided false information in the application or has a criminal history.
Councilmember Steven Segal asked Police Chief Ken Walker what the city is doing to enforce the ordinance.
“Maybe we should encourage people to call the police more often,” Walker said.
The police department has received seven calls this year from residents about solicitors, he said. Seven calls were also received last year.
“The door-to-door solicitors haven’t been a problem since the ordinance was changed,” Walker said.
Boehme said he called to report a solicitor once and was told they were registered with the city. Since then, he’s just presumed they are registered, he said.
Walker said the police department received four applications this year and none of them were approved. In 2010, seven applied and two were approved.
“If we know they’re not approved and an officer drives by and sees someone walking, they should know they are breaking the law,” Segal said.
Three people have been arrested for soliciting so far this year. In 2010, three people were arrested, compared to 10 in 2009, Walker said.
“The door-to-door solicitors are people that typically couldn’t get a job at a carnival,” Walker said. “They typically have criminal histories. Those are the ones that concern me the most.”
Segal said he would like the next city currents to have a blurb in it about how many solicitors are registered with the police department.
“The seniors are concerned about people coming and knocking on their door,” he said.
Colleyville, Texas recently strengthened its solicitor’s ordinance to require that solicitors must prominently display their permit and wear an orange traffic vest.
“I would like to look at those things,” Boehme said.”
City Manager Michael Ross said anything that can help the police identify a solicitor would be beneficial.
Mayor Bob Kelly said it doesn’t seem like the city has a soliciting problem and that the current ordinance seems to be working.
Kelly said if someone comes to his door that he doesn’t know, he just doesn’t answer it.
He asked City Attorney Alan Petrov if a resident could call the police if someone came to their door that they didn’t know.
“You can call the police, but the police can’t always do something about it,” Petrov said, adding that religious and political organizations are exempt from the ordinance.
Council asked staff to look into and bring back what other cities have done with their soliciting ordinance.