Dear SCO Residents-
From bible toters to door-to-door salespeople, homeowners are finding themselves increasingly annoyed by solicitors knocking on their doors. But what exactly can you do about these bothersome visits? Are the solicitors within their rights or infringing upon yours?
While there are a variety of laws in place that regulate soliciting, the regulations can vary depending on where you live. For example, many states regulate the solicitation of charities, requiring them to register with their state agency before soliciting residents for charitable contributions. However, businesses and door-to-door salespeople are often regulated by city or county ordinances. Unfortunately, SCO resides in Harris County and it is not illegal to solicit regardless of signs posted.
In some cities, posting a “No Soliciting” sign on your front door or near the entrance to your neighborhood prohibits solicitors from knocking on your door. The same goes for “No Trespassing” signs. Unfortunately, not all solicitors notice or pay attention to the signs. In such a case, you can report the solicitor to the police as being in violation of your city’s laws. However, if your city does not prohibit solicitors from knocking on your door when such a sign is posted, all you can really do is politely ask them to leave, which in our case, is the only real option.
Whether or not a solicitor is considered guilty of trespassing depends on the situation. In terms of a crime, trespassing of one’s land is defined as the “wrongful interference with one’s possessory rights in [real] property.”
While solicitors can be annoying, it’s often not worth getting the police involved simply because a salesperson shows up at your door. However, should a solicitor ever appear suspicious or behave in a way that makes you uncomfortable or afraid, you should immediately call Pct 4 @ 281.376.3472.
This is exactly what the police in Baltimore County, Maryland recently encouraged Parkton area residents to do. According to a Lutherville-Timonium Patch news report, the police warned residents of burglars that had been canvassing the neighborhood disguised as solicitors or hucksters. Needing the assistance of the residents to prevent daytime crimes, the police encouraged them to report any suspicious individuals they saw walking around their neighborhood, as well as reminded residents of the county laws that require door-to-door salespeople to carry or display a Baltimore County Huckster’s License.
Regardless of where you live, it’s important to be aware of the fact that individuals walking around our neighborhood could be criminals scouting for an easy target for a home invasion or burglary. Well-dressed and clean-cut strangers are sometimes simply a rouse to fool homeowners and their communities into letting down their guard.
In some cases, criminals will walk the neighborhood and take photos of homes and the surrounding property. They will then study the photos to learn which homes have a fence, a dog, an alarm system, easy access, and more.
Even worse is when criminals are able to get homeowners to allow them into their homes. For some, this can be easily achieved by looking as if they work for a reputable company or acting as if they share similar religious beliefs. Once inside, the homeowner is susceptible to having the inside of their home scouted for a future burglary. They also run the risk of becoming the victim of a home invasion or other heinous crime.
While legitimate salespeople, charities, and religious organizations will file and carry the necessary solicitation permits, it’s important to keep in mind that just about anyone with a computer, a scanner, and an inkjet printer can create and print phony identification cards and licenses. It’s for this reason that you should approach every solicitor with caution.
No matter how innocent a person looks through your peephole, I’m a firm believer in NEVER opening the door to a stranger. However, if for whatever reason you find yourself opening the door to what you believe is a solicitor, here is some additional security and safety measures that can help keep you and your family safe:
If at any time you feel uncomfortable with the person, quickly shut and lock your door, then ask the individual to leave. If they don’t do as you ask, call and report them at 281.376.3472.
While allowing a solicitor into your home is a BAD idea, if you decide to do so, call a neighbor or a friend and notify them of what you’re doing. Ask that they call the police if you don’t call them back at a predetermined time.
If you own a large dog, have it by your side when you answer the door. Do not allow the solicitor to pet your dog or give your dog a treat. Regardless of how friendly you know your dog to be, you want the solicitor to believe approaching you and your dog is not safe.
If you have a home alarm system equipped with a remote panic button, have it on your person. Pressing the panic button will notify your monitoring station to immediately summon the local police. If you don’t have a home alarm system, the panic button on your car key can also be used if your car is within close range to draw attention.
When it comes to solicitors, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Keeping your door closed to strangers is the best way to protect you and your family from the annoyances of salespeople and the dangers of criminals in disguise.