By Chuck Blesener
We have recently seen a sharp increase in the number of solicitors going door to door in our neighborhood. We have gotten many complaints that they are rude, intrusive, accomplished liars, seeking money fraudulently, and showing up late into the evening. While our Deputies and HPD officers can’t run them off, they can check them out and discourage them.
Councilmember Ellen Cohen’s office tells us that some state laws were changed in a recent legislative session that required the City of Houston to rescind the ordinance regulating solicitors, and prevents HPD from enforcing ‘No Soliciting’ neighborhood signs. They are no longer required to register with the city, obtain permits, or wear picture identification. The police can still enforce ‘No Trespassing’ signs but they must be placed on the front of each individual home to be legal.
Many solicitors prey on seniors thinking them to be easy targets but all of us can become victims. While a few of them represent charities, politicians, or religions, most are scam artists seeking to separate you from your money. Signing a petition is their introduction to asking you for money; selling magazines that you will never receive is their way to steal your identity off your check information; hiring them to do jobs around your home is inviting them to steal from you or to come back and burglarize your house.
HPD and the Constable recommend you always respond to someone at your door so they won’t try and break in with you in the house. You do not have to open the door to anyone you don’t recognize. Just tell them you are not interested in whatever they are selling and to go away or you will call the police. If they say they are from a utility or company to do work in your home or yard, verify their identification, verify they are in a marked company vehicle, and call the company to verify they are supposed to be there. In any case, if they appear suspicious or refuse to leave, call Constable Dispatch at 713-755-7628 or HPD at 911.
It is advisable to not do business with anyone who comes to your door that you did not call or do not recognize. Do not give money to anyone, sign a petition for anything, hire anyone, or buy anything from someone who rings your doorbell. Research and investigate all charities and businesses before you give them money. Contact and deal with them personally by mail, telephone, or online.