The Stokes County Board of Commissioners is considering an ordinance which would regulate door-to-door solicitations in unincorporated areas in the county.
Sheriff Mike Marshall said the ordinance would help his office combat thieves who use the pretense of selling items door-to-door to case properties or clean out medicine cabinets.
“People show up selling toilet paper, then ask to use the bathroom and clean out the medicine cabinet,” he told the board. “This is happening all over the Piedmont. The ones who are getting targeted are the elderly.”
He said the ordinance would not prohibit anyone from selling door-to-door, but would require those seeking to do so to obtain a permit from the county.
The proposed ordinance, still in a draft form, differentiates between commercial and non-commercial door-to-door solicitation, requiring the permit for commercial endeavors.
The ordinance would prohibit either type of solicitor from making false statements, obstructing traffic, selling in a way that would create a threat, or soliciting before 9 a.m. or after 7 p.m.
Commercial solicitors would be required to prominently display an photo identification badge provided by the Sheriff’s Office and be able to present a permit upon request.
The draft ordinance would provide exemptions for solicitations for charitable donations, promotion of political, social, and religious views, campaigning for political office, distribution of newspapers, county employees on county business, and contractors engaged in construction, maintenance or engineering surveys.
Obtaining a permit would require a criminal background check, a $25 application fee and a description of the activity to be conducted.
The proposed ordinance does not seem to include any exemptions for school, church or scouting fundraising efforts, an omission County Attorney Ty Browder said would likely be corrected before the board holds a final vote on the measure.
Several commissioners expressed some concern over the proposed ordinance, mainly centred on how it may impact churches’ efforts to engage the public.
“It seems like in our county churches have visited homes to get folks to come to their church,” said Commissioner Jimmy Walker. “I would not want to see anything in our ordinance that would make it complicated for church members to do that.”
Commissioner Ernest Lankford said he was concerned over the inclusion of non-commercial solicitation in the ordinance.
“I would like to have that tweaked,” he said.
Commissioner Ronda Jones, on the other hand, said she thought the ordinance was a great idea.
“I think it is necessary,” she said, noting the only change she would like to see would be an effort to increase public education over the issue. “We are so far out in the middle of nowhere that it is just not fair for people to take advantage of them.”
The commissioners will continue discussing the proposed ordinance at their next meeting.
Nicholas Elmes may be reached at 336-591-8191 or on Twitter @NicholasElmes.