Dayton-area homeowners who want to avoid sales pitches from door-to-door solicitors have several options to do so but few actually take advantage of them.
A Dayton Daily News investigation found around 4,000 households in area cities have added their addresses to “do not knock” lists. Dayton, Centerville and Kettering don’t have “do not knock” registries, but in cities like Englewood, Huber Heights, Oakwood and Fairborn very few households have signed up.
In some area cities, a solicitor who ignores the lists could be charged with a misdemeanor and face a maximum of $250 in fines and 30 days in jail.
“Once the weather breaks is when more and more people are going door-to-door, not just scam artists but even legitimate organizations trying to create their base for spring and summertime,” said John North, president of Dayton’s Better Business Bureau . “We often see people going door-to-door, passing out literature, giving information and trying to get people to sign on the spot.”
Englewood was one of the first area cities to offer a “do not knock” registry more than a decade ago. The move was challenged in court by a nonprofit environmental group that said it violated its first amendment right to freedom of speech. In 2012, Englewood instituted a court-tested ordinance including a do-not-solicit list, fashioned after the national do not call registry.
Oakwood and other cities in the Dayton region have followed Englewood’s lead and fashioned their own similar ordinances, said Oakwood city attorney Rob Jacques.
“We got a number of complaints from the residents…other cities had started or had the non-solicitation ordinance and that kind of got the ball rolling,” said Huber Heights police chief Mark Lightner.
The Huber Heights police department has gotten some complaints since its registry went into effect in 2017, but they’ve declined over time. Most of the time solicitors aren’t aware of the ordinance and police inform and warn them.
Leaders of area cities said it is not common to offer more than a warning, but the misdemeanor can be used if necessary. In fact, people can still drop off door hangers and pamphlets in all area cities.
Oakwood has the most residents on its list with nearly 1,700, followed by Fairborn with nearly 1,000. Englewood city officials said they roughly have 750 signed up, close to 250 in Riverside and around 185 in Huber Heights.
To get on the list, most cities have an online form or residents can call to be added. Addresses fall off the registries after five years and are removed upon a sale or change in tenant.
Oakwood also has a check box on monthly city utilities bills, and some residents check the box every month to make sure they don’t fall off the list, Jacques said. The list, Jacques said, can also provide an extra measure of security.
“We have had numerous incidents here in Oakwood when someone who’s knocking on the door is not really knocking on the door because they want to sell you a service or talk to you about a political belief,” Jacques said. “They’re knocking on the door because they’re looking for a home where people aren’t home. They’re looking for unlocked doors.”
The solicitors could also be scammers looking for personal information, North said. Residents should make sure a salesperson’s company matches their vehicle and badge, be on the lookout for offers that may seem too good to be true and avoid situations where a solicitor tries to pressure them into making a quick decision, he said.
Other cities that don’t have registries generally still prohibit solicitors if residents post signs that solicitors aren’t welcome, including Kettering, Miamisburg, Vandalia and Centerville. City of Dayton law prohibits people from soliciting “on private property, after an owner, lessee, resident, or agent thereof has given notice to the solicitor that he or she is not permitted to solicit on that property.”
Miamisburg provides no soliciting stickers for residents to use if they wish, said Chris Fine, development director of the city of Miamisburg. The stickers can be picked up at the civic center.
Most area cities told the Dayton Daily News they have permit requirements for commercial solicitors.
In many cities, like Vandalia, door-to-door salespeople have to provide a photo I.D. and their applications are reviewed by the police department.
The permit process has been in place for more than 14 years and Hopkins said the city hasn’t sought to review it or update it because it hasn’t become much of an issue. Violations of the solicitation permit rules can be reported to police but the department doesn’t receive many complaints, Hopkins said.
Solicitation becomes an issue every once in a while in Kettering as well, said Kettering spokeswoman Stacy Wall Schweikhart, but the city doesn’t want to deter students selling things for fundraisers or Girl Scouts selling cookies and Boy Scouts selling popcorn.
“That’s where it has gotten tricky for us,” she said. “But, we do provide the information for our residents.”
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