Door-to-Door Soliciting Rules Proposed by Phoenix City Councilman Sal DiCiccio

It's kind of creepy:

There's a sudden knock at the door. You check to see who it is -- and it turns out to be someone trying to save your soul.

Or maybe they just want to sell you something. Either way, you wonder if they would have tried the door and maybe burglarized the place, had you not answered.

Sal DiCiccio, the recently installed city councilman, wants to come up with a solution. He's instructed his staff to come up with ideas for an ordinance dealing with door-to-door soliciting.

DiCiccio says in a news release (see below) that the ordinance would be designed to give homeowners "greater protection" against thieves. Councilman Claude Mattox seems to be leaning toward a regulatory solution, claiming in the release that hordes of criminals are coming from other states and using soliciting as a ruse to rob people.

A Google search shows some cities have such ordinances. Fort Collins, Colorado, has one that requires a "no soliciting" or "no trepassing" sign to be posted at the home. The Town of Gilbert reportedly has an ordinance prohibiting knocking on the door or ringing the bell at someone's home if they have a no-soliciting sign posted, but fliers left by (apparently legitimate) solicitors are still a problem.

The problem with such enacting such rules is that the First Amendment often gets in the way -- are they selling something, or suggesting donations could be given to "the cause?"

Arizona already has a "no trespassing" sign law. Put one of those babies up and you can have news reporters convicted of criminal charges or even legally blow someone's head off, in certain situations. Unfortunately, says DiCiccio, the law still allows folks to walk up your door and knock on it, unless the sign is on a gate that blocks access to a house's door.

The inevitable, publicity-drawing debate may be an underlying reason for DiCiccio to capitalize on the issue -- but DiCiccio tells New Times that's not the case (getting a bit ticked when we raise the question), saying this is an issue that cops and community members have voiced concern about. "These aren't the Fuller Brush people," he says, giving the same line to the Arizona Republic.

DiCiccio says his motivation for bringing up the idea for an ordinance is also personal:

"I guy came to my door, said he lived in my neighborhood," he relates. "I asked him some specific questions. He was basically lying."

DiCiccio told the man he was going to call police, provoking a slew of angry cussing from the man, who then walked away.

Asked what kind of ideas might end up being floated, DiCiccio casually mentions that one option would be a form of registration. Who would be registered? We ask. "Everyone" that goes door-to-door, he answered.

Asked if that meant registering Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses, DiCiccio tries to turn the tables, asking New Times if we're advocating such a plan.

"You need anything else?" he asks testily. Whoops. Time to go.

No doubt, the city will leave plenty of legal elbow room for door-to-door proselytizers, Girl Scouts and other socially accepted solicitors. But that could mean an ineffective ordinance.

For now, homeowners could try something like the humorous sign at the top of this post, or maybe a more involved message (click image for closer view):

DiCiccio's news release follows:

Councilman DiCiccio Proposes Citywide Solicitation Ordinance

Councilman Sal DiCiccio is proposing city officials adopt a citywide ordinance on door-to-door solicitation. DiCiccio recently submitted a memo to Councilman Claude Mattox, chair of the Phoenix City Council Public Safety and Veterans Subcommittee, requesting the item be added to the April meeting's agenda.

"My office has been contacted by numerous residents, as well as police officers in my district, requesting that we consider implementing such as ordinance," said DiCiccio. "The ordinance would increase public safety by offering homeowners greater protection against individuals or groups using solicitation as a means of executing property crimes."

"Solicitation has become a serious problem in the city of Phoenix," said Mattox. "A large number of these solicitors are coming from out of state and using solicitation as a means of gaining access to residents' homes. We are starting to address this issue now so that our communities are protected from these crimes of opportunity."

DiCiccio's office along with city staff are working to assemble a task force, including neighborhood leaders, members of faith-based groups, other nonprofits and the Police Department, to study ordinances that other cities have in place against solicitation.

For more information or to submit feedback on the proposed ordinance, contact the District 6 Office at 602-262-7491.

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.