If you want to avoid the knock on the door from a salesperson asking you to buy an alarm system or a vacuum, get a “no soliciting” sign.
After revisions were made to a 32-year-old county rule, residents have the authority to have a person arrested for proceeding with a door-to-door sales pitch when a “no soliciting” sign is posted. The sign could be as simple as a small sticker on your door or a yard sign in front of your home. Some subdivisions also post signs at their entrances to show that none of the residents want to be disturbed.
In the past, sheriff’s deputies could escort the solicitor off the property but not make an arrest. With the changes, they now can arrest someone who is violating the rules.
“A lot of people just don’t want to deal with the solicitors and want us to come out and arrest them,” said Col. Randy Werden, chief deputy of the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office. “Now, with the changes made to the ordinance, we have the opportunity to do more than just telling the solicitors they need to leave.”
That is one of the key changes recently made to the county’s rules on solicitors who sell items door-to-door. Now, residents in unincorporated areas of the county, including White River Township, have more power to turn away solicitors, and law enforcement can better track who is coming into neighborhoods. The new rules were unanimously approved this week by Johnson County Commissioners, and go into effect immediately.
The changes were motivated by steady complaints from White River Township homeowners, Sheriff Doug Cox said.
“I can remember the days before the no-call list when you’d sit down to dinner with your family and the phone would be ringing off the hook with calls from people wanting to sell you something,” Cox said. “It was very disruptive. I think a lot of people feel the same about door-to-door sales.”
In the new version of the county’s rules, a “no soliciting” sign now carries the same legal weight as a “no trespassing” sign under Indiana state law. If a solicitor attempts to conduct business at a home or in a neighborhood where signs are posted, he or she can be arrested. The hope is that the threat of arrest will keep solicitors off the doorsteps of people who don’t want to be bothered, stopping interruptions to family time and privacy, Cox said.
Homeowners were also worried that the people coming to their door selling magazine subscriptions or cleaning supplies might also be planning to come back and break in later, Cox said.
The original version of the rule required solicitors to be licensed, and license applications were processed by the county auditor’s office. Applicants were required to provide minimal background and contact information. This often made locating the solicitors after a complaint challenging, Werden said.
One common complaint to the sheriff’s office, especially during the summer, is about high school or college students selling items door-to-door. An adult takes a group of students to a neighborhood and drives away for a few hours while they go door-to-door.
After a complaint call, police officers or deputies could remove the students from the neighborhood, but the employer who drove them there would be unreachable. This would leave the students stranded until their employers eventually returned to pick them up, Werden said.
The new version of the rule has transferred license processing to the sheriff’s office to make enforcement more efficient. Applicants are now required to provide an ID and information about their vehicle to make themselves easier to track, Werden said.
“We get a lot of calls about solicitors, and if we don’t have any way of tracking them down, we have to go out and look for them,” Werden said. “This way, we know who they are, where they’re going to be and how to get ahold of them.”
Each applicant will also need to undergo a criminal background check. If a conviction is found on the applicant’s record, that person will not get a license, which is essential for public safety, Cox said.
“If I run a criminal background check on somebody and they have a rape conviction, I don’t want them going door-to-door selling anything,” Cox said. “The background checks help us keep the wrong people from knocking on your door.”
The more stringent licensing requirements will help to verify that the people going door-to-door are legitimate because if they are serious, they will get a license. But homeowners should still always be on guard, Werden said.
“These people out there are strangers to you. You need to think about who you are letting in before you open the door. We just want everyone to be safe and use common sense. I encourage anybody who has any doubt about a solicitor to call the police or the sheriff’s office,” Werden said. “That’s our job to check into it.”
Change 3: Anyone with a prior criminal conviction will not be allowed to sell door-to-door in a neighborhood.