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Legal action can be taken against solicitors | MIPD crime tip of May

The Mercer Island Police Department's crime tip for May addresses seasonal door-to-door solicitors and canvassers.

As the number of daily door-to-door solicitors and sales representatives increases over the warmer weather months on Mercer Island, the police department warns that while some come to Mercer Island from out of town or out of state with legitimate business from reputable companies, others work for nonreputable companies, use dishonest or fraudulent sales tactics and aggressive sales pitches to get business from Island residents.

The MIPD offers these tips to help you navigate, and limit, your interactions with them, and keep yourself and your families safe.

Solicitation cannot be fully legally prohibited in the City because it is protected by the U.S. Constitution First Amendment, as upheld in courts. Mercer Island’s ability to regulate solicitors is limited due to court decisions during the last few years.

• If you do not wish to have solicitors at your door, post a "No Trespassing" and/or "No Solicitation" sign on your property — at the driveway entrance and the front door. If a solicitor ignores the sign and approaches your door, the solicitor is trespassing and the city can then take legal action. To report a trespassing solicitor, please call the dispatch center for the Mercer Island Police Department at (425) 577-5656 (non-emergency) or 911.

• Use good judgment. You don’t have to open your door to a solicitor. Speak with them through your locked door, ask them to identify themselves, and ask them to state what their business is. If you don’t feel comfortable speaking to them, tell them you have no interest in what they are offering, and politely ask them to leave.

• If you do decide to open the door and speak with a solicitor, don’t be afraid to say “no” if you don’t want to purchase their product or participate in their cause.

• At any time, you can always ask the solicitor to leave. If they refuse to leave, shut your door and call 911.

• If you do choose to speak with a solicitor, always remember that a solicitor is still a stranger. Never tell a solicitor that your spouse or parents are not home. Your safety is your biggest priority.

• Always be cautious when providing credit card numbers, checks and/or cash to door-to-door salesman. Asking a solicitor for the name of his or her company and researching the legitimacy of the company is a good way to help prevent being taken advantage of or having your financial/personal information compromised.

• Use a polite tone and be respectful with solicitors. Solicitors should be using the same tone when speaking to you. If a solicitor becomes agitated and too aggressive or makes threatening statements, close the door and terminate the contact with them. Then call 911 to report the incident.

• Be aware of new dishonest sales pitches. Solicitors have been known to pretend to be from your neighborhood or claim to know someone in your neighborhood in order to build rapport with you or gain your trust. Always ask follow up questions and contact the people who the solicitor claimed to know before giving personal or financial information to them.

• Never let a solicitor into your home.

As a general rule for safety, especially during the solicitor season, always keep your doors locked and alarms activated (cars and residence). Do not leave wallets, purses or things of value in plain sight, where someone might be tempted to break into your car or house and take your belongings. Alarms and locked doors serve as great crime prevention deterrents, especially if you are not at home.

For information on additional crime prevention tips and ways to keep your family safe, check out the Mercer Island Crime Prevention booklet: www.mercergov.org/files/Crime%20Prevention.pdf.

Citizens are also encouraged to find out more about the legitimacy of an organization prior to donating funds. Washington state has a database of all registered charitable organizations at www.secstate.wa.gov/charities.

The city is not enforcing the solicitation ordinance, in response to an order issued by Federal District Court Judge Coughenour in the matter of Peace Action of Washington v. City of Medina enjoining its solicitation ordinance. Certain provisions in the city of Mercer Island's ordinance are similar to the city of Medina's ordinance, including the requirement that all solicitors register with the city. The court held that registration requirements constituted a prior restraint on First Amendment free speech.

According to the Mercer Island city code (Soliciting Hours of Operation, MICC 5.16.060), permitted solicitors and canvassers may operate within the city only between the hours of 10 a.m. and 8 p.m., daily. It is unlawful to solicit or canvas within the city at any time other than during the hours set forth in this section.

According to MICC 5.16.070, it is illegal for any solicitor or canvasser to solicit or canvass on property where a notice has been posted giving conspicuous notice that solicitors and canvassers are not allowed or permitted.

 

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