City Council cracks down on out-of-state peddlers

By: Sherri Kolade | Farmington Press | Published October 7, 2013

FARMINGTON HILLS — City Council members recently adopted an ordinance amendment they say will help protect out-of-state peddlers’ and solicitors’ constitutional rights, and to keep residents and business owners safe.

On Sept. 23, City Council members voted 7-0 to enact an ordinance amending the city code for solicitors and peddlers.

The amendment, introduced by City Council Sept. 9, goes into effect Oct. 14.

It will establish solicitor registration requirements, require out-of-state criminal history reports and eliminate time restrictions for solicitors.

City Clerk Pam Smith said solicitors — defined as individuals with religious, educational and charitable organizations — are not required to have time restrictions when they solicit.

“There has been Supreme Court case rulings that require us not to have time restrictions on people from religious groups,” she said.

She told C & G that if the solicitors are in the city for that purpose, they are required to register. She added that solicitors do not face as many requirements as peddlers, who sell merchandise door-to-door. Peddlers are required to obtain a license through the city.

The City Clerk may deny the peddler a license if she finds that the applicant has been involved in fraudulent transactions, has a bad business reputation, is listed on any criminal sex offender registry, or has any outstanding warrants for any misdemeanor or felony, among other reasons. 

The criminal history background and application fees are not applicable to people soliciting on behalf of organizations.

The amendment does not allow peddling in the city after 8 p.m. or sunset, whichever comes first, or before 10 a.m., according to the amendment.

Smith said after the meeting that the ordinance amendment is much more defined.

“It clarifies some information about why we’ve changed some of the solicitors portion,” she said.

Police Chief Chuck Nebus told C & G that, this year alone, the city has responded to 68 complaints related to peddlers and solicitors.

He said one impetus behind the amended ordinance came in early spring, when 70 peddler license requests from an out-of-state company came before the city.

“When reviewing them at the Police Department, I realized (that with) out-of-state peddlers, there is no way for us to be able to tell if (solicitors or peddlers) had criminal histories,” Nebus said.

At the time, the Farmington Hills ordinance only required Michigan residents to provide criminal history.

“There was no way to get that (from) out-of-state solicitors,” he said. “As a result, we revised the ordinances so out-of-state people (could) produce some kind of proof (that they had) no criminal history.”

He said the 70 applicants had numerous complaints.

He said every state has procedures in place to obtain from a solicitor with a criminal history; any potential out-of-state solicitors are able to pass that information along to Farmington Hills.

Michigan’s own database is called Internet Criminal History Access Tool, or ICHAT.

In Farmington Hills specifically, the solicitors can provide their ICHAT information to the city clerk with an application. The Police Department would subsequently make sure that information is on file, Nebus said.

He said the laws and rules are in place to keep residents safe and uphold the constitutional and individual rights of peddlers and solicitors.

He added that the Police Department is part of a five-county consortium that runs peddler license applications to see if peddlers have been ticketed or been in legal trouble in Genesee, Macomb, Washtenaw, Oakland or Wayne counties.

The original ordinance only required background information via ICHAT for Michigan residents.

“We try to really screen the peddlers and solicitors,” Nebus said. “We have more problems with people who aren’t licensed. We can never know the percentage.”

He added that if residents see anything suspicious with a solicitor or peddler, they should contact the police.

“We wait for those calls,” he said, adding that people are typically supportive of the solicitor and peddler enforcements.

“Residents appreciate the fact that we do the background and screening,” he said.

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