Solicitation ordinance approved - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Opinion

Solicitation ordinance approved

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Posted: Saturday, March 12, 2011 2:00 pm | Updated: 5:48 pm, Fri Nov 18, 2011.

Since I have returned to the Phoenix City Council, many residents have voiced strong concerns about door-to-door solicitors in our neighborhoods. For me this is a public safety issue that must be addressed.

Citizens have complained there may be a link between door-to-door solicitors and crime in their neighborhoods. Many people approaching our homes are not like the sales people of years past. Some are out to sell us fraudulent goods or services, or worse, to scope out our homes with malicious intent. Neighbors expressing their fears about solicitation always told me they wanted to ensure their neighborhoods remained safe.

Last week the Phoenix City Council unanimously passed the recommendations of the Solicitation Ordinance Working Group. The group, chaired by Councilmen Claude Mattox and Tom Simplot, considered the concerns of the neighborhoods, the businesses in Phoenix and many other stakeholders before approving an ordinance that not only creates an opportunity for homeowners to protect themselves and their property, but also avoids a new and overly burdensome bureaucracy. Citizen education partnered with a stronger ordinance will help us protect our homes and neighborhoods. The ordinance goes into effect April 1.

The key considerations in formulating the ordinance were:

1. To write a generally applicable ordinance to:

• regulate the hours of operation for door-to-door solicitors.

• require solicitors to carry government-issued photo identification (like a driver's license) at all times and to show it upon any request from a resident.

• define specific behaviors that are prohibited (peering through windows, refusing to leave premise when asked, etc.).

• modify city code provisions relating to handbills to clarify requirements and add criminal penalties where possible.

2. To launch an education campaign to empower residents with knowledge necessary to distinguish between legitimate and disreputable door-to-door solicitors. The campaign would also educate residents on existing laws and regulations to address trespassing and hand-billing and the "Cooling-Off Rule."

3. Institute a process to better track resident calls and complaints regarding door-to-door solicitors, which would help the police department to track complaints and identify the scope of the problem.

The working group unanimously recommended City Council approval of the recommendations and requested that city staff review the city of Scottsdale ordinance and incorporate provisions requiring responsible adult supervision of minors engaged in door-to-door solicitation.

City staff has worked closely with stakeholders, including religious organizations, to ensure that First Amendment rights are not violated. They have also worked with public utilities so that they can perform duties required by federal, state or local law or to communicate service interruptions.

I believe that the staff recommendations will allow residents to protect themselves while ensuring that legitimate businesses and groups will be able to communicate with neighbors safely.

• Phoenix Councilman Sal DiCiccio represents District 6, which includes Ahwatukee Foothills. Reach him at council.district.6@phoenix.gov or (602) 262-7491.

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