The LAT’s is reporting that on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, Reality TV writer/director James Marcus Howe and his wife were inside their Glassell Park home when a salesman knocked on the door. It took only minutes before Mr. Howe was dead and his wife was seriously wounded. The story reports that Howe and his wife approached the front door observing one man standing alone. According to police, another man and a woman immediately forced their way in. Apparently, the altercation escalated and one of the male assailants brandished a handgun. Mr. Howe was shot and died at the scene; his wife was also shot, rushed to the hospital, seriously wounded and survived. Their 6-year-old son was present but unharmed. According to the LAT’s story, LAPD Deputy Chief Jose Perez stated that “The victims were completely innocent. There is nothing to connect them with the assailants."
Time to revisit an earlier post of mine, revised but still relevant.
The days of door-to-door solicitors are a thing of the past-- at least as far as opening the door to them. For sure, solicitors will argue that they are entitled to engage in their activities. And some are. But I ask these important follow up questions. Will they be there when you are robbed, assaulted, or murdered by a person posing as a door-to-door solicitor? Will they indemnify you for you losses?
Once these hard questions are posed, the “vested interest” party usually defensively retorts, “It must be horrible to live in fear.” Another common refrain often advanced is-- “Home Invasions are not that common.” Both positions are fallacious arguments meant to bolster a complete stranger’s perceived right to enter your space, usually private property, in an attempt to make a profit or solicit a donation.
The actual reality is much clearer. Just because a person practices common sense and exercises a higher degree of caution, this does not automatically make that individual paranoid or overly fearful of life. What it does make them is Street Smart.
Back in the day-- actually my parent’s day-- it was not uncommon for individuals, mostly males, to travel around the country selling things. The Fuller Brush Man immediately comes to mind.
That was 60 years ago. Things have changed considerably. Mayberry is no longer a reality. The fact is that it is just too dangerous these days to willingly risk exposure to personal assault and perhaps death merely because you have opened your door to a stranger selling or requesting something.
Some individuals may feel this choice to ignore the knock on the door is just too harsh a treatment for a person eking out a living or acting charitable. Others may think the choice to limit contact with a stranger is unfounded paranoia.
Fact-- there are bad guys out there who make a business out of doing bad things to good people.
Police officers can legally detain, investigate, Field ID, cite and arrest door-to-door solicitors for selling or asking for donations without the proper city-issued permits.
The rules door-to-door solicitors must follow are found under the Los Angeles Municipal Code, Chapter IV, "Public Welfare," Article 1, "Disorderly Conduct Places And Publications," Section 41.43.1.
Under "Door To Door Selling Or Soliciting" the LAMC Code specifically states:
No person shall solicit, sell or offer to sell, demonstrate or take order for goods, wares, or any form of merchandise, by entering upon the premises of another for such purpose except in compliance with the provisions of this section.
(a)"Solicitation." …shall mean to sell or offer to sell, demonstrate or take order for goods, wares, or any form of merchandise or services.
(b) No person shall enter the premise of another for the purpose of solicitation between the hours of 8:00 p.m. and 8:00 a.m. of the following day.
(c) Any person over the age of 16 who engages in door-to-door solicitations shall carry a form of photo identification and must present such photo identification upon request of any persons being solicited, any peace officer or other person charged with the enforcement of the laws pertaining to such solicitations. The photo identification must include the person's date of birth and be issued by a governmental agency or educational institution. Acceptable identification includes a state driver's license, state identification card, school identification card, or any government issued identification card.
(d) Any person engaged in door-to-door solicitation shall present the original or a copy of the Business Tax Registration Certificate required under Los Angeles Municipal Code 21.06 upon the request of anyone being solicited, any peace officer, or other person charged with enforcement of the laws pertaining to such solicitations.
(e) The provisions of this section shall not apply to vendors or solicitors who have previously been invited or requested to appear at such premises by the owner or lawful occupant thereof, or to persons making charitable solicitations in accordance with Article 4 of Chapter IV of the Los Angeles Municipal Code.
With regard to door-to-door salesmen soliciting magazine subscriptions and other personal property, Article 2, "Soliciting-- Sales" Section 42.19, "Magazine Subscriptions-- Sales for Future Delivery-- Where Solicitation Prohibited" covers this. It specifically states:
(a) No person shall, on any public street, sidewalk or parkway, in this city, or in any doorway or entrance way immediately abutting thereon, solicit the sale or subscription to any magazine, periodical or other publication, or the sale of any tangible personal property for delivery at subsequent time.
LAMC permits some forms of door-to-door solicitation as long as certain guidelines are followed. The main guidelines are the possession of a proper photo ID; possession of a valid business tax license; adhering to the correct hours for sales; and, presenting the photo ID and tax license when requested.
No magazine sales or subscriptions, or the sale of tangible personal property, slated for future delivery are permitted.
Philanthropic door-to-door solicitations are permitted. However, several guidelines must be adhered to. A "Notice of Intention" must be filed with the department-- which in this case means the LAPD. An Information Card is issued by LAPD, and it must be displayed and/or presented for examination when requested by the person being solicited from.
Door-to-Door solicitation is prohibited between the hours of 8:00 p.m. and 8:00 a.m. For children under 16, the hours extend from 8:00 p.m. to 9:00 a.m.
No child under the age of 10 shall solicit without a responsible party present 18 years or older.
Critics often argue that the government is overly intrusive, acting as a Nanny State, smothering free market competition by limiting commerce, and stymieing capitalism by introducing restrictive mandates.
They also forget to mention that properly licensed and permitted door-to-door salesmen and solicitors add to the tax base and help support the infrastructure of the city they operate in. Additionally, the rules and procedures are enacted to both limit “panhandling scams” as well as to provide a measure of safety for the public. Legitimate solicitors have ID’s. They are registered with Law Enforcement agencies. They are held accountable for their actions. They must adhere to specific hours and days of operation. They must provide supervision and protection for any children working for them. It is all very basic and beneficial both for the public and the solicitors.
If it wasn’t viewed as a nuisance and a public safety problem, there would not be guidelines.
Many unlicensed non-permitted door-to-door solicitors are from out-of-state or from out of the immediate area. They travel extensively working their way across the country. Some have extensive arrest records. Some have outstanding arrest warrants. Some have bad intentions because they are using the pretense of door-to-door sales as a ruse to gain access to vulnerable people.
A recent ruse used in Glendale, CA was simple. Sell a magazine subscription and sweeten the deal by offering the buyer a chance to win a trip to Italy. Basically, it is the old dangle the bait and wait for the fish to rise MO. As P.T. Barnum supposedly stated-- "There's a sucker born every minute."
Not all the residents of North Glendale were biting. An alert citizen called the police. This allowed the Glendale Police Department to also go fishing. Glendale's catch for the day-- four arrests.
One salesman is carrying an illegal butterfly knife. One man is on probation for robbery. He also has an outstanding arrest warrant from San Jose. The third man gives police a false name, a crime. He is arrested for selling magazines without a permit. The fourth man, arrested later, is also nabbed for the permit violation. He is on probation for grand theft. He has two outstanding warrants-- one traffic related; one for failure to appear in court.
Other than that-- these gentlemen are apparently outstanding citizens just earning a living.
Knowing what you do now would you willingly open your door to them?
All criticisms and debates aside, this is exactly the problem. People you do not know are knocking on your door. They are strangers. Common sense dictates you do not expose yourself to unnecessary risk by opening the door. Unfortunately, the once common practice is just too risky.
It is much more than the fact that unless the product is in front of your eyes, open to immediate inspection, you are not guaranteed the goods being sold to you will be delivered as promised. The most important aspect of this “open--don’t open” the door dilemma is that you don’t actually know who you’re dealing with. What is their background? What are their true intentions? What is their present state of mind?
Personally, I once hired a "nice" guy. He needed money. I needed yard work. I later learned he had 13 criminal convictions. One conviction was for Assault with a Deadly Weapon— he knifed a guy. It was pled down from attempted murder! That revelation startled me.
Obviously not everyone is "bad" who comes to your door selling or asking for something. That's not the point. The concern is exposure to unnecessary risk. How do you know what you’re facing until you are exposed?
So the real questions are: Are you willing to take a chance with you and your family's safety for the sake of not offending, not engaging in conversation, or not conducting a blind transaction with a stranger who knocks on your door and who may or may not be a legitimate, respectable, hardworking door-to-door solicitor?"
It makes more sense to stick with traditional methods for purchasing products and to not expose oneself to unnecessary risk. That’s my humble opinion based upon experience, education, research, and employment history. For me, it’s more than an intolerance for interruption at an inconvenient time; or the irritation of being bothered at my home by a stranger selling me something I’m not interested in.
Although I do enjoy my privacy, I also like to maintain a safe environment. Most people don’t know that without a fence, locked gates, and visibly posted “No Trespassing” signs, with the appropriate LAMC noted, anyone can legally enter your yard-- even rummage through your trash. All the police can do is come when called-- if they have time as it is not a high priority call-- and ask the individual to leave. There is no crime. Only if he refuses to leave when first you and then a police officer requests it will the PD advise you to initiate a private party trespassing arrest.
This is exactly why they invented fences and have lockable gates. For a criminal intent on committing a crime, access is everything.
Don't think for a moment Home Invasion robberies do not occur and often with violent outcomes. They happen more often than you think. In fact, criminals sometimes dress as delivery persons or pose as utility workers and meter readers. Some criminals follow people home from stores, banks, work. They specifically target them because they believe they have valuables. Some instances of invasion are crimes of opportunity, more or less random in nature.
So do we live life in constant fear? No. That is not the intent of this information.
However, when possible, it is essential to properly identify individuals accessing your property or who are attempting to make personal contact with you. It is important to determine if they’re legitimate and conducting lawful business.
How can that be accomplished?
If you feel uneasy or mistrustful, a simple phone call to the business the person is representing can satisfy the identity requirement. If the person is truly legitimate and genuinely conducting business, they will not mind the wait. When unsure of a situation, it is best to defer to your instincts. Why are you unsure? Pay attention to the warning signals. Remember, just because someone knocks on your door doesn't mean you are required to open it. If the matter-at-hand is really all that important, the individual will leave a card or a notice.
The fact is that sophisticated burglars sometimes "recon" by door-knocking.
So what do you do?
If you open the door to a stranger, you expose yourself to risk. If you don’t respond to the door-knock, you risk a break-in while you are present. A Hot-Prowl is considered a high risk situation by law enforcement professionals. If you respond, you let the individual know someone is present. It’s a true dilemma.
And once again that's why they make fences, lockable gates, breed and train personal protection dogs, install alarm systems, and manufacture weapons. However, not everyone wants to, has the ability or training to, or the finances to take advantage of the above solutions.
What's the solution?
Police suggest letting the person knocking know someone is present. However, they do not recommend opening the door to strangers. If the individual gets aggressive or attempts to gain unlawful entry, calling 911 and retreating to a "Safe Room" is a reasonable course of action. A Safe Room requires a lockable door so that it provides some measure of security until police arrive. Be aware that a digitally operated phone may not operate if the electrical power is disconnected. A Cell Phone or an old fashioned analog type phone will still provide 911 access if the electrical power is cut. A Cell Phone will provide 911 service if the phone line is cut, a digital or analog land-line phone will not.
Unfortunately, response times to calls for emergency police service are not always timely. It depends upon where the patrol unit is responding from, traffic conditions, how many patrol units are deployed, how many simultaneous calls for emergency service there are, as well as the severity of the incident being reported.
For example, an officer-involved "shooting-in-progress" call will take precedent over a "theft from vehicle" call. A "suspicious person" call will be answered more slowly than a 459-Burglary "Hot Prowl" call. Unless luck is on your side, I'd estimate at least 5-7 minutes for a patrol unit to show up to an emergency.
Ask this important question to yourself. Are you willing to risk your safety to answer the door for a stranger?
The decision whether to open your door to strangers and to support door-to-door solicitors is ultimately a personal one. The information provided should give you an indication when it is appropriate to contact the police, or if you even want to. Obviously dialing 911 because a door-to-door solicitor is standing on your door step is rather extreme without gathering more information. However, a call to your local Senior Lead Officer for a friendly "Heads-up" regarding a door-to-door solicitor working the area might be perfectly appropriate.In the end, the police cannot be everywhere. Crimes happen, sometimes with deadly consequences. That’s an unavoidable fact. However, it is the alert, informed, and involved citizen who is the "eyes and ears" of the community and who often deters crime.