How to Deal with Solicitors Knocking on the Door

Below is a message from the San Diego Police Department addressing residents’ concerns about solicitors in the neighborhood. Although some information may be specific to the city, or to California, it’s still useful to the general public in many ways. I’ve lived in San Diego for many years and never knew solicitors were required by law to show their police-issued picture ID when they go from door to door! I hope I never have to use this – I always politely turn them away – but if it comes down to it, I’m sure most solicitors who knock on my door will walk away if I ask about their Police Registration Card.

Dealing with solicitors can be uncomfortable and in some cases, dangerous. This is especially true for new immigrants who may be more likely to fall victim to fraudulent activities due to lack of experience or their language barrier. The tips offered below will surely come in handy when you hear the knock next time.

Solicitors, Peddlers, and Interviewers
Officer Matt T. from San Diego Police Department

It has come to the attention of our department more and more of late that peddlers, interviewers and solicitors are canvassing our city streets. In tough economic times, the water is warm and conditions are ripe for fraud, elder abuse, financial crimes and just downright falsely represented charities that are tantamount to outright theft. Let’s dive into the waters headfirst and lay some terms out for understanding.

As the City’s Municipal Code defines it; “A solicitor is a person who goes from house to house, business to business, without an appointment, or to one house, street, sidewalk, alley, plaza, park, public place, by foot or vehicle, who sells or solicits for value of goods. They make work for themselves or for a business.” San Diego Municipal Code 33.1401 And most importantly, “All persons working as interviewers, solicitors, peddlers or vendors of merchandise, services, magazines, etc. are required to obtain a Police Registration Card. When operating, the card MUST be displayed on the front of their person, and they MUST exhibit the card to any peace officer upon demand. (San Diego Municipal Code 33.1402)

This card is white in color, has a photo, tracking number, and identifying information along with official City of San Diego background /seal. Our SDPD Permits and Licensing Unit grants these passes after a background check, fingerprinting and collection of fees. If a person at your door is displaying a City ID, you can considerably better in dealing with them should you choose to. But do not forget, it is a legal requirement.

It is unlawful for ANY person to ring the doorbell of a residence, rap or knock on any door, or create any sound in a manner calculated to attract attention for the purpose of engaging in activity as a solicitor or interviewer if the occupants have posted on the premises “No solicitors,” “No soliciting,” “No solicitors or peddlers,” or any similar language clearly denying invitation and entry to solicitors. San Diego Municipal Code 33.1410

No person under 14 years old will be issued a Registration Card, and persons under 18 must have a work permit from their school. And a seldom known fact is that California Civil Code Section 1689 et. Seq., requires solicitors to provide a contract for buyers allowing a “3-day cooling-off period” for sales of $25 or more.

NO PERSON shall operate as a solicitor between the hours 8 p.m. and 9 a.m., except by appointment. San Diego Municipal Code 33.1410 California Penal Code, section 532(d), makes it a misdemeanor to make false representation in solicitation of charitable contributions.

So what does this all mean? In short, it is highly unlikely for a person who knocks on your door to be legitimately operating and in compliance with our Municipal Code and the State Laws. We as a Police Department feel strongly about identifying and contacting these persons, as a percentage of these are merely posing as solicitors for purposes of criminal enterprise. What better way to gauge home security, vacant status, yard security and valuables located within a home then knocking on the doors and looking in the windows, ostensibly to sell items or services? These solicitors are the smoke before the fire. Burglary series in our areas of San Diego have been canceled by arresting solicitor crews. Our recommended response is as follows:

When home and someone knocks on the door without appointment, we recommend you acknowledge the knock and let them know you are home. People have been surprised when a burglar using soliciting as a front thinks no one is home and enters the home after getting no answer on a knock. Ask the purpose of the visit and observe through a peephole. If it is a solicitor, ask to see the “Issued City License/ ID card of the person.” Do not open the door if it isn’t present or even if it is and you feel uncomfortable. Inform the person of your intention to call the police if they don’t have a license to solicit and then place a call to our non-emergency number of 619-531-2000. We would like you to report these persons as potential “casers” or suspects. Very rarely are good services and reputable companies using door-to-door solicitation as legitimate means of commerce. More than likely it will be someone using a ruse or scam to separate you from your money. All the stories of “helping get to a college trip” or “for poor children / women/ etc…” are by and large fictitious and should in no way be encouraged with your hard earned money. We regularly encounter vans full of out of state persons with criminal history staying in our motels / hotels for just this purpose.

Don’t be victims; call the police to report this activity. If the person refuses to leave or tries the door handle, call 911. Help us keep the streets clear of scams, fraud and burglary. Your vigilance is greatly appreciated. As you know now, a litany of laws exist for just this reason, and for good reason. The direct correlation between unauthorized soliciting and crime are well documented. Thanks for asking the question on the minds of so many!

Cook-A-Meal at the McDonald House

Today I went with a group of co-workers to volunteer at the Ronald McDonald House of San Diego. Our job was to cook and serve dinner to more than 100 people, so that they could “relax” and have a hot meal at the end of the day.

These families have one thing in common: They all have a child in the hospital being treated for a serious, often life-threatening illness. I can’t pretend to understand what they are going through, but I’m truly glad that I was able to offer a little help.

We spent about four hours at the Cafeteria. Started with cleaning the floor and setting up tables, went on to prepare food (short ribs, mashed potatoes, salad, drinks and cup cakes), and then served dinner to people waiting in line. Many kids were there at the dinner, and a few grandparents too. Some children, organized by a volunteer apparently, performed “Snow White” that was quite entertaining. It brought laughter from the otherwise quiet crowd.

Last step was to clean up and make the kitchen ready for breakfast tomorrow. The kitchen does have a few full-time staff – serving three meals a day isn’t trivial – but its daily operation depends largely on volunteering and donations. One of my co-workers asked what happens if they run out of donated food and grocery, and Chef K.C. replied that they would have to tap into their main budget to purchase only essential stuff and offer “low-cost” meals.

We also took a brief tour of the facility. Without knowing how a charity like this works, I was able to see how people’s generous donations were put into good use. Many families are stretched financially caring for children in medical crisis, so a place like the McDonald’s House that provides housing and meals would be a huge relief. Not only that, the San Diego charity is right across the street from the patients’ building. Parents can walk over in just a few minutes, and when they take a much needed break, they can be reached quickly if something happens. One of the two TV rooms has a window facing the kids rooms. When we were told that sometimes the very young children could see their parents through the window, realizing that they weren’t far away, I had to try hard to hold back my tears.

Another thing I learned was that although McDonald Corporation and local restaurants provide a steady source of funding, the vast majority of the San Diego charity’s annual budget come from individuals, foundations and other businesses. The event we just organized today was one example. Also, remember those little boxes at McDonald’s restaurants that people can drop their spare changes in? I’ll forever look at them differently now. Last year alone, those donation boxes collected nearly $25 million that will be distributed to individual McDonald Houses worldwide.