08/21/09 — Solicitors could find new rules in county

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Solicitors could find new rules in county

By Steve Herring
Published in News on August 21, 2009 1:46 PM

Sheriff Carey Winders joked with county commissioners this week that he didn't want to stop door-to-door salespeople because he was going to be one of them when he campaigns in 2010.

However, he said commissioners do need to consider rules governing the practice.

In addition, it is time, he said, to address the increasing number of false alarms that cost the county in terms of gas and time away from actual emergency calls.

No action was taken on either item, but information is to be gathered and reported back to commissioners for consideration.

"We are not talking about churches or school children selling candy," Winders said. "We are talking about these (professional) people. We don't have an ordinance in the county and a lot of citizens in the county have approached me on this at Crime Watches -- door-to-door sales at any time of the day -- 7 o'clock at night, 10 o'clock at night knocking on the door.

"Of course, then we get the call that, 'we have a suspicious person at my front door knocking.' We get there and the person says, 'I am selling magazines, or I am selling this.' Hopefully, with an ordinance, we would have times when you have to stop."

Some solicitors are out on Sunday morning trying to sell when people are going to church, he said.

"To me, that, from a law enforcement view, looks like somebody is out there casing the house when we get a call that somebody is walking from the front door to the back door," Winders said. "It is a waste of gas and manpower, too, to go out there and you have this guy (selling) and you don't have any enforcement tool to say you don't have a permit and you are not authorized to be out this time of day or night. We don't have any teeth to do anything with. That is something we need to look at."

"We can certainly prepare something," county attorney Borden Parker said.

Parker asked for some guidance from the sheriff and the commissioners on what they would like to see in the ordinance.

Winders said he would contact other sheriffs about existing ordinances.

"Those are the kind of things I think you would want to limit, the time people can go," Parker said. "If I am going to sell encyclopedias, do you want to limit me more than you want to limit someone selling vacuum cleaners?"

Winders said the vacuum sales accounted for most of the comments he hears.

"If I am going out to pass out pamphlets to try and get you to come to my church Sunday, are you going to treat me differently than you are going to treat somebody who is out collecting for the Lions Club selling brooms?" Parker said.

"We need to take into account the nonprofit versus the ones out there making a profit," Winders said.

County Manager Lee Smith said Goldsboro has something in place regarding the door-to-door sales.

"If it is possible to have something similar in nature (to the city's), it is easier to explain to the general public and to make it easier to understand because people do not know where the (city-county) line is," he said. "So, if the sheriff does go out now, there is a different line here for Goldsboro, a different line for Mount Olive."

"The biggest complaint that I get are the hours of operation," Winders said. "People don't want anybody knocking on their door at 9 o'clock or Sunday morning when no one is there."

As for the false alarms, Winders said a representative of the company Cry Wolf would be in the county Sept. 17 to talk about managing false alarms.

"That has become a big problem for the county," Winders said. "We have a number of false alarms every day. They (Cry Wolf) take responsibility for generating those fines. (False alarms are) a problem for the officers. It is a problem for us, a problem for dispatch.

"The big thing that worries me is that an officer continuously goes to a residence or a business that always has an alarm going off, then the officer may develop a lackadaisical attitude and think this is another false alarm. Then he rolls up and it is not, and somebody is hurt or killed."

Winders said people and alarm companies don't always take the time to call back and let dispatch know it is a false alarm.

Along with the gas and time expended answering false alarms, the county also is endangering the public when the deputies are "running blue lights and siren," he said.

The county has what Winders called an "older pre-computer ordinance."

"It was probably one when you didn't have many alarms, now everybody has alarms," he said. "There is a big difference."

Smith suggested Winders ask the Sheriff's Office Advisory Committee to send a draft ordinance for commissioners to study.