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Who's at your door?: Residents should ask for solicitor permits, say police



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September 01, 2010 - In 2009, door-to-door salespeople were all over last Orion.

This year, their numbers are over twofold, along with the potential for scams and criminal activity coming with them, say police.

According to Lake Orion Police Chief Jerry Narsh, the number of door-to-door permit requests coming through his department has more than doubled since last year. So far they've fielded between 30 and 50, up from 2009's 15 requests.

Eighty percent of those would-be salespeople have criminal records and 30 percent were denied because of serious felonies, "including ones of violence or deception," Narsh said.

And those are just the solicitors actually seeking a permit. Many don't bother, say police.

"It's a privilege to step on to someone's property to their front door and try to sell them a product on their own time," said Narsh, noting, as a society, we worry about internet theft and fraud, but door-to-door salespeople can be "scary, squared."

What should residents do to stay safe?

Don't answer the door – you're not obligated to, says Narsh.

Or, ask for and look over a soliciting permit. A sample of what permits look like is posted on www.lakeorion.org. The process to get a permit includes a background check, helping to keep anyone with a serious criminal history out of the area.

Or, ask them to leave, and by law they have to obey. If a door-to-door salesperson doesn't leave, it's a ticketable offense because he or she is in violation of the village's soliciting ordinance, and it's an arrestable offense for trespassing, said Narsh.

Residents can also post a "no solicitors invited" sign from the police department and avoid interactions with door-to-door salespeople all together.

"I'm not maligning door-to-door sales," Narsh said. "They have a right to commerce, the same as anyone else. The difference is the store is coming to you. The minute a marketing firm or a sales conglomerate wants to step foot on your front porch, it raises the need to do background investigations."

Don't fall for a solicitor's excuses for going door-to-door without a permit. Excuses usually go something like this: "My manager keeps all the permits;" or "I left my permit in my car."

"Almost exclusively, they don't have a permit," said Narsh.

He added that if a salesperson is falsely representing that they have a permit, it's a safe assumption he or she is falsely representing the product, too.

"Buyer beware," said Narsh.

One solicitor Lake Orion police came across was a women driving a car decorated with Class of 2010 writing, soliciting without a permit. She said she was going to college in the fall and was trying to offset costs. The woman turned out to be 22-years-old and from out of state.

"It was the appearance she was marketing as much as the product. She was using the trust factor dishonestly," said the police chief.

And if someone is knocking on your door on Sunday or a holiday, call police because he or she is in violation of a village ordinance. Going door-to-door is only allowed Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays, and national and state holidays are prohibited.

Reporter, Lake Orion Review
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