Council May Make Door-To-Door Soliciting Tougher

November 12, 2009

As the city council on Monday considered revising West University Place laws to be tougher on door-to-door soliciting, West U. police last week arrested three men for violating the city’s current soliciting law.

“It’s very common. We’ve had problems with solicitors at least as long as I’ve been here,” said West U. Lt. Charlie Deily about the two arrests.

The city council is studying soliciting ordinances from three other Texas cities and considering adopting some requirements that would force solicitors to purchase permits and stop knocking on doors after dark.

“Next to parking on the sidewalk, and dogs not being picked up after, this is the one I hear the most about,” said Councilman Steven Segal about resident complaints on commercial soliciting.

In one of the soliciting arrests last week, a resident called police on Nov. 1 because a door-to-door solicitor tried to sell her magazines. Police arrested the man for not registering as a solicitor with the city, which violates the current soliciting ordinance.

In another case on Nov. 2, two solicitors did register with the city and received a “no-knock list” of homes they were not supposed to visit. A resident called police because they knocked on the door anyways, and the pair was arrested for violating the ordinance. Both men had criminal histories in other states, according to a police report.

Deily said that while some solicitors do work for legitimate businesses selling magazines or food products, many others the police come into contact with do have criminal histories. Some of them make up bogus soliciting businesses, he said.

“You have a greater percentage of people who go door to door, and what they’re doing is going around the neighborhood finding out where they can come back and burglarize a car or steal something,” Deily said.

West U. Police Chief Ken Walker at Monday’s meeting presented to the city council his analysis of soliciting ordinances in three other cities. Each city requires solicitors to pay small fees for permits to solicit in the city, but require different things in the permitting process.

University Park requires solicitors to provide photographs during the permitting process, and a letter from the person’s company certifying that they really work there. In Highland Park, Walker said, solicitors cannot knock on doors after sunset or any time before 9 a.m.

North Richland Hills has the most strict requirements to get permitted: A solicitor must show credentials, prove they really work for the company, and cannot have fraud convictions within the past five years. Sex offenders are blocked from applying for a permit.

“I think our existing ordinance is on one extreme, and the North Richland Hills ordinance is on the other extreme,” Walker said.

Segal said he supports the permitting idea so the city could put up signs indicating that solicitors must visit the police station before beginning work. He also liked the idea of prohibiting soliciting after dark.

“The last thing is I’d like to see is some kind of violation asserted against the named party on the advertisement. The pizza place, the construction company or whatever,” Segal said. “I’d like to authorize the city to look into this.”

Deily said that residents interested in placing their homes on the “no-knock list” can visit the city’s web site, download a form and return it to the West U. Police Station.

“If people don’t want people to come to their door, get ahold of us,” Deily said.

InstantNewsWestu Staff

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