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Perry: Rescind peddler's permits
Thursday, July 5, 2012
By DEBBIE HALL - Bulletin Staff Writer
Henry County and law enforcement officials are considering ways to protect residents from possible predators without hindering local businesses.
Sheriff Lane Perry told the Henry County Board of Supervisors recently that his office has received numerous complaints from local residents about door-to-door salespeople.
Those selling goods door to door are required to obtain peddler’s permits — basically 30-day solicitor’s permits — to be out in communities selling products, Perry said. He asked the supervisors to consider rescinding the permits.
Many door-to-door salespeople have “little regard for our rules and regulations anyway,” he said.
Often, the sheriff said, one person may apply for a permit while his associates already are out in neighborhoods, peddling wares.
There also are those “who have not even applied for a permit” but still go out into communities, Perry said.
In advance of issuing a peddler’s permit, “we run their criminal registries trying to prevent people who are listed on the sex offender registry, for example, or those who have a history of criminal actions” from getting a permit, Perry said.
But, he noted, there are some cases in which authorities may not be aware of a person’s background, such as “if they have not been caught in an illegal act,” Perry said.
Also, the door-to-door sales process “contradicts what we tell people in our Neighborhood Watch programs,” Perry said. He explained that residents are told that if local businesses are out in neighborhoods providing services, they generally are traveling in marked vehicles and have some other type of identification.
That is especially true of utility companies which, for example, have marked vehicles and probably have a placard inside the vehicle, as well as clothing that includes identifying information about the company and other identification, he said.
George Lyle, county attorney, said he will look into the ramifications of rescinding the permits and explore possible alternatives. That information will be reported at an upcoming meeting, Lyle said.
“My intent and my efforts are to look out after our community,” Perry said. Any change to the permitting process “needs careful attention and wording so as not to hinder our local businesses.”
The process also should be designed to “prevent possible predators from coming in and annoying people in their homes or possibly preying on them,” the sheriff said.
“My intent is to bring awareness to the board of supervisors, and hopefully, we can put something together that doesn’t hinder local businesses but still will protect residents,” Perry said.
His concerns do not apply to merchants who set up displays or stands on the sides of roads, such as during race weekends. Those businesses are required to obtain itinerant merchant permits, according to discussion at the meeting and Perry.
But the sheriff estimated that in the last two weeks, a dozen complaints about door-to-door salespeople have been received at his office. He called that number “pretty noticeable.”
In one case, a door-to-door salesman wanted a local resident to write a check and leave the date blank, Perry said. The resident was told to call when the funds were in the checking account and the salesperson then would date and cash the check.
“I think our people are getting hounded” by salespeople who are using “high-pressure sales tactics and unethical means” to try to sell everything from alarms to magazines, Perry said.
“I think in this day and age in our culture, if somebody wants to buy something, it’s so easy to buy it online or research it online and buy it locally,” Perry said. “And that’s what we hope they would do ... . Buy it locally.”