If a solicitor comes knocking on Angie Stone’s door, she asks to see their peddler’s license, which she knows they must have to go door to door in her Center Grove area neighborhood.
Her children have been taught to ask for the license, too, since solicitors come to her home in the Carefree neighborhood about twice a month, she said.
More than likely, the person selling products door-to-door does not have a license, even though it is required by the county. Only nine people filed for a peddler’s license with the county last year, and no licenses have been issued so far in 2015, according to the county.
Carefree North and South does not have any rules against solicitors in its subdivision, but neighbors are fed up with people selling products door-to-door.
“My guess is that most of them are very honest and fair, but all it takes is just one,” resident Dick Huber said.
Last fall, Huber started asking all solicitors who came to his door to see their peddler’s license. In most cases, the solicitors say the license is back in their office, or they don’t need one, he said.
The county is looking at ways to make it easier to track the people soliciting in neighborhoods in the unincorporated area, including the Center Grove area. Residents also have asked for stronger regulations so that solicitors aren’t allowed to go door to door, Commissioner Ron West said.
The sheriff’s office routinely receives calls from residents about solicitors in their neighborhoods, asking if there’s a way to stop them from knocking on their doors, Johnson County Sheriff’s Office chief deputy Maj. Randy Werden said.
Police can’t arrest someone for knocking on doors, but if they are soliciting without a peddler’s license, they can be cited, Werden said. The licenses make sure people pass a background check before they are allowed to promote products in neighborhoods. They note what products they’re selling, how long they will be selling in Johnson County, and their full name and address.
That way, if residents call the sheriff’s office asking about the person standing at their front door, police can give them details from the license of what the person is doing in their neighborhood.
But since few solicitors get a license, the sheriff’s office is trying to find ways to make it easier for them to register with the county. Ideas include no longer charging a fee, which currently costs up to $75 for a six-month period, Werden said. Or instead of having to go to the county offices, the sheriff’s office could issue the licenses, since they get the calls when a solicitor is in a neighborhood, he said. And then, if a deputy finds a solicitor without a license, that person could be cited and required to register.
Getting solicitors to sign up for a license has been difficult. Werden has gotten calls about parents dropping off their children in a neighborhood to sell a product and leaving. Without a parent to call or to talk to, children won’t be cited for selling something without a permit, he said.
Neighbors in the Carefree subdivision have started doing their own enforcement and established a Crime Watch committee.
After finding out that a peddler’s license is required, the committee’s mission has been to educate neighbors about what the license looks like and what to do if a seller without a license arrives at their door.
“When we got involved in Crime Watch, we had no idea there was a law that protects us,” Stone said.
Crime Watch committee members told neighbors to ask to see a solicitor’s peddler’s license. If a resident talks to a solicitor without a license, they can call the Crime Watch captain on their street to alert the rest of the neighborhood.
With residents more informed about peddler’s licenses, the committee hopes solicitors will either avoid their neighborhood in the future or register with the county.
“They’ve (solicitors) been around for several years, but I think there’s more and more of them,” Huber said.
Another tool the neighborhood uses is a website called nextdoor.com, which establishes a forum for neighbors to discuss what’s happening in the neighborhood. About half of the 700 residents that live in Carefree are on nextdoor.com, Stone said, so if a neighbor is bothered by a solicitor, he or she can immediately post the solicitor’s description to the site.
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Solicitors in unincorporated areas of Johnson County, including the Center Grove area, need to apply for a peddler’s license to sell products door-to-door.
Peddler’s licenses include:
- Physical description of applicant
- Permanent address of applicant
- Name of employer and what products are for sale
- Length of time they will sell products
After filing for a license, the sheriff’s office conducts a background check of the applicant.
The applicant must have the license on him or her while soliciting. Fees for the peddler’s license ranges from $10 per day up to $75 for a six-month license.