Sick of solicitors? Put up a sign!By Neil H. Dempsey
Concerned by the recent report of a sexual assault by a salesman in West San Jose, nearby home invasion robberies and the intimidating tactics even nonviolent door-to-door peddlers can sometimes use, the city retooled its ordinances concerning solicitors this week.
Though some of the changes streamline the application process for solicitation permits and another drops requirements to bring the city in tune with federal law, one of the city's new policies offers worried residents a way to escape solicitors altogether.
The City Council adopted the changes, which were advised by City Attorney Larry Anderson.
Under the old policy, solicitors seeking charitable and political donations were required to obtain a permit to do so from the city's Police Department, Anderson said. Under new stipulations, they will no longer be required to -- as federal courts have indicated local governments have a "very minor part" in regulating charitable solicitation. "You can't hold them up for two weeks trying to determine whether they're good people or not," Anderson said.
For other solicitors, the timeline for the application process itself will be slashed to less than two weeks and questions on the application itself will be less subjective, Anderson said. The city's fingerprinting requirement will be retained so police can perform a background check on each applicant.
Additionally, private residents can now simply erect a "No Soliciting" sign to ward off peddlers, door-to-door salesman and individuals seeking charitable or political contributions -- and will have the city on their side, Anderson said.
Residents bothered by solicitors despite their signage will be able to summon police -- who may revoke the offender's solicitation permit or issue a fine, he said. The sign must be posted in a highly visible place and may also say anything that clearly indicates the resident's wishes, according to the ordinance.
Burlingame police Commander Brad Floyd said that although summertime can be an especially busy time for solicitors, complaints aren't generally made because of violence or break-ins, which are rarely associated with solicitors. "They get pushy sometimes, there can be disagreements and these solicitors can be overly assertive," he said. "That's usually when we get the telephone calls."
A survey of other local municipal codes and city clerks in Hillsborough, Millbrae, Redwood City, San Carlos, San Bruno and Belmont revealed Burlingame to be one of the first in the area to adopt such an ordinance. San Bruno's city attorney said her city probably hadn't adopted one because the issue fell under established trespassing laws.
Copyright ©2006 Peninsula Examiner. Published 01/19/2006.