Bloomfield Township weighs possible ‘Do Not Knock’ registry

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published May 3, 2021

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BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP — Soon, Bloomfield Township may be yet another local community that offers residents a chance to sign up for a Do Not Knock registry, prohibiting solicitors from approaching participating homes and charging ones that do with a misdemeanor offense.

Township Clerk Martin Brook, elected to his seat in November, presented his plan for a registry to the Board of Trustees during a regular meeting April 26. He said that, in learning the ropes of his new office, he looked to see what benchmarks he could meet compared with clerks in other municipalities.

“Many local communities not only have solicitation ordinances, but also allow (residents) to register their address on a registry that’s provided to solicitors, and they would be instructed not to knock on those doors,” Brook explained, noting that Birmingham, West Bloomfield and Troy are among the municipalities that have Do Not Knock registries.

The registry, just like the general ordinance that requires solicitors to obtain a license from the township before they head out to make sales, would not include freedom of speech exceptions like religious soliciting or political door knocking. The registry wouldn’t include names, just addresses, and it would be exempt from Freedom of Information Act requests.

Trustee Stephanie Fakih expressed surprise at the consequence associated with violating the township’s solicitation ordinance. She indicated she wouldn’t support a registry if there were a criminal charge for violation, and she suggested revisiting the existing ordinance to review whether a misdemeanor charge is appropriate.

“I know ignorance of the law is not a defense, but if a solicitor doesn’t know they’re guilty of a misdemeanor, right?” Fakih asked Brook. “If it remains as a misdemeanor, I would  not be in support of that ordinance.”

Brook told Fakih a misdemeanor charge is standard and is in place in other communities. Bloomfield Hills does penalize violators of its No Soliciting list with a misdemeanor charge, but the Birmingham Ordinance Code lists the violation as a civil infraction for first and second offenses. In Troy, violating the city’s Do Not Knock registry is grounds for revocation of a soliciting license, and soliciting without a valid license in the city is a misdemeanor crime.

Birmingham Police Cmdr. Scott Grewe said he doesn’t often have to refer to the city’s Do Not Knock registry, kept by the city clerk. Complaints rarely escalate to that point.

“Birmingham has a soliciting ordinance that requires solicitors to be licensed. That alone has an impact on reducing door-to-door sales,” Grewe said.

Trustee Valerie Murray said she supports the registry, especially since nearby communities already have such systems in place. She added that, like the Do Not Call registry designed to eliminate phone solicitations, the Do Not Knock registry would not be “a perfect system,” but it would be nice to have.

Township Clerk Dani Walsh said she would be in favor of the registry to complement the existing solicitation ordinance, especially as summer approaches and door-to-door fraud and utility scams become more prevalent.

“The people that prey on our seniors are a lot, and they aren’t the ones going out and getting the licenses,” she said. “As someone who has seniors in her life, I appreciate this, and I’m really glad that it’s here.”

The registry will be presented to the board at its next meeting and, if approved, would be published online and in local publications, at which point the ordinance would take effect.

For more information, including the township’s code of ordinances and agendas for future Board of Trustee meetings, visit bloomfieldtwp.org.

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