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The Abington Citizens Network
where Abington, PA residents can share ideas and join forces to build a better community
 


The Solicitation Ordinance

In 2009 the Commissioners allowed commercial solicitors by ordinance to solicit in our residential neighborhoods, adding
 ( as was shortly proven ) further danger to our neighborhoods and a drain on police and other services .

 

Here’s the whole ordinance http://ecode360.com/9007417

    WHAT THE RESIDENTS WANT AND NEED   - 2016
We want neighborhoods without solicitors wandering through them  & would ask that you fight in Harrisburg for the right to remove them from our  residentially zoned areas  

 We need you to implement further protections since  we DO have solicitors:
1)      the permit should be required  TO BE WORN AROUND THE NECK OR DIRECTLY IN VIEW ( not under a coat or sweater  ) and it should say that it must be worn that way  right on the permit . When residents read it – they will read that it must be worn visibly and know that when they don't see one, the person is not legally soliciting

2)     The permit should  say in Large letters “SOLICITATION PERMIT on BOTH SIDES so it can’t be turned around

3)     The permit should have in LARGE letters  the SOLICITORS NAME  ON BOTH SIDES OF IT .

4)     A QUICK BUTTON ON THE TOWNSHIP HOME PAGE TO THE LIST OF REGISTERED SOLICITORS would make it easy to check so you can see if he/she is registered and if not can call 911 right away for a car to be dispatched. 

5) If a solicitor has been caught soliciting without a permit, they should still be paying the fee --- if the police want to issue a warning and spare them the fine in addition to the fee, fine ( one time )  .  But they SHOULD NOT BE GIVEN A WARNING AND  PAY NOTHING

2-16   I have asked Larry Matteo, Director of Code Enforcement ,  my Commissioner and the Police to address these details, implement these simple changes and  would appreciate your support  by having you do the same.

   TOP  10 REASONS NOT TO HAVE SOLICITORS

     First concern:  safety --- who’s in my neighborhood and why?

     Second :    I chose to live in a residentially zoned neighborhood not where business is transacted
               
Who has given businesses the right to  spoil the quiet  enjoyment of my home ?
     Third : signs do not make my house more beautiful or my community more friendly 
      Fourth : signs are often ignored by solicitors anyway  
      Fifth : the literature solicitors leave marks our houses when we are away and makes us less safe
      Sixth the literature is a violation of state and local litter laws
      Seventh: There is also great confusion over what “no solicitation” means . Brownies? Boy Scouts
?
            
School  Fundraiser kids ?  All  non-profits ?  Church Booksellers? Church donation
             requests ?   Politicos ?  Can they  come even if asking you for money ?    A” no trespassing sign”

            
means all must obey – even your neighbors  who are not soliciting  & might  like to bring you
             
important community information or invite you to something. But very few know the nuances of who
           
 is and isn’t included or the difference between that and “no solicitation” . Does the meaning of 
             
“no solicitation “ vary from Town to Town or State to State ?  Non–profits are excluded from having
             
to get a permit, but if they encounter signs saying  “no solicitation “ are they allowed to ask for money ?
              You’ll find out very few know the law, and that includes  some police, most solicitors, a lot of
              organizations and the majority of  residents.

    
Eighth – If you wanted to help out burglars and thieves, what better way than to give them an easy
               excuse to go door to door and  case each house individually, up close  and with no fear
               of being suspected?

    Ninth – the Township creating a problem that  you now have to pay to solve - you pay  the police
                 you pay the Township Personnel and you pay when a crime results from their presence

__________________________________________________________ 

 

 THE ACTUAL ORDINANCE    AND RELATED LAWS
 
See the entire Solicitation ordinance   or   here     or here http://www.abington.org/home/showdocument?id=2282

WHERE TO CALL TO CHECK ON A SOLICITOR
Call 911 -  it's not just for emergencies anymore . They will see if he/she is properly registered .
The Township and Police websites have links   http://www.abington.org/home/showdocument?id=2282 
You also can call  
Jim Salaik in the Code Enforcement office   267-536-1018  to verify certain solicitor's authenticity - such as paving contractors or you can call Susan West at the Police station 267-536-1100 to see if they have a permit.  

THE TOWNSHIP HAS LITTER LAWS THAT SOLICITORS ARE VIOLATING   -
NUISANCES 108-1. Prohibited acts.   http://www.ecode360.com/9007279?highlight=sign,yard#9007279
section 108.1  of our Township code they not allowed to leave anything on your property without your permission   here  OR   here

It is illegal :
E.
To throw, drop or place, or cause to be thrown, dropped or placed, upon any of the public highways, sidewalks or public places within the township, or upon any porch, step or yard of any house or store along any of the public highways within the township, any posters, circulars, bills, handbills or other advertising matter of any kind or description whatever.

F. To throw, drop or place, or cause to be thrown, dropped or placed, upon any of the highways, sidewalks or other public places within the township, any paper, paper boxes or literature of like kind or nature, or waste matter of any kind whatsoever.

G. To nail, tack, hang or otherwise append any sign, notice or advertisement of any kind whatsoever on any tree, post or pole of any description within the township, except on private property and then only by permission of the owner.

 THE STATE  HAS LITTER LAWS THAT SOLICITORS ARE VIOLATING :
      18 Pa.C.S.A. 6501
.  Scattering rubbish.(a)  Offense defined.--A person is guilty of an offense if he: 1)  causes any waste paper, ......or rubbish, ....... upon the land of another


 POLICE NEED TO STAND WITH US   
 1)  The  police are well aware that criminals like to"case" their targets - and what better way than to go door to door looking for open doors and windows or items of value or people not home or who might be elderly or disabled or alone.
2) Commissioners have issued several warnings and caveats about door to door scams and about how to protest yourself, but wouldn't it be better to simply not allow give a free excuse to people in the neighborhood --even with an excuse to got right up to the house - in the first place?
3)
A good number of solicitors  use our mailbox flags and mailbox posts for their flyers.  But in March 2014  the police issued a warning to call 911 if you saw anyone other than the homeowner at  a mailbox - because mailbox thefts had been prevalent.  (OK - lets add a few dozen more transients - that will help the situation) 
4)  There have already been amendments to the local ordinance because of  aggressive behavior by solicitors and  diand  intrusions by these solicitors have included pusheing in on elederly people, for instance . When you have given a perfectly legitimate excuse to people who may be roaming your neighborhood, even  after dark, and when you know some are not legitimate and some are aggressive  it doesn't seem like you are tsupporting measures  that would   make us safer - but ...perhaps the opposite. 
 Who is deciding how our communities are run?  Why aren't they and those charged with protecting us standing up for us in this matter ?

 

Earlier entries are below this line --- when you keep adding it gets repetitious - apologies for that . Will try to edit soon.

The issues are that :
a)  This ordinance should never have passed - instead the police should have stood up strongly to protect the residents as this will make them less dafety and the law allowed safety as a reason to control these activities- since it was passed there have been incidents that directly outlined the threat to safety, especially for the elderly or frail
b)  The flyers and pamphlets are "marking the houses" of those not home and are a violation of current liter laws - but neither township nor police appear to be  enforcing these laws
c)  The outrageous  9 pm time is far to late for the safety of anyone - and nearly always dark
d)  The residents overwhelmingly do NOT want these intrusions on their private property, and whatever part of our system is broken to the extent that the citizens of a community do not have a say in it, needs to be the job of everyone to fix
e)  Even the laws , such as litter laws, as they exist are not being enforced and illegal activity is occurring in association with the solicitation.

RECENT ACTIVITY  
2012 -2015  Since the passing of legislation allowing Commercial Solicitors into our neighborhoods, there has been am increase of activity and no sense that our safety will be priority one.  In October 2012 the  Board of Commissioners   was considering  amendments to the ordinance.  In particular the $ 100 per day fee was being  reduced to $200 per month, as the original fee was supposedly not allowable per the First Class Township code(?) despite the exhorbitant cost to our police to monitor them - answering calls, sending letters, making court appearances, etc  And the 9 pm time was affirmed in that amendment -- a time that residents feel is an outrageous intrusion into their privacy and to the quiet enjoyment of their property .   Residents have testified  at the podium and asked Commissioners to consider the facets of the ordinance that are not working  and also as our Chief of Police has been head of the Chiefs of Police - he has been asked to use his position there to poll and rally the other Chiefs to  work for  changes to any laws which would prohibit them from recognizing the activities as not suitable for residential neighborhoods.  For those who choose to live in commercial districts, that might be another story.  But we should have a right to choose to have zones that are free of commercial activity if we, as a community desire. And I think just about every community does.  Since when should the officials who are elected by the residents to serve them be serving the interests of businesses over the interests of the residents.?  See discussion below . The points listed below have been sent to the Township manager and the Commissioners.

     
  DISCUSSION OF THE ISSUE  : 

1) I hope we might agree
 encouraging transients to be present doing business in residential neighborhoods  does not increase safety

 2) A burglar's dream :   By going door to door people can learn who was home and who is not home.  They can look in windows and yards and sometimes garages see what is valuable and what is not.   They can learn who might be elderly or infirm or perhaps more susceptible or less able to defend themselves.   They can put literature in a place that easily marks the fact that residents are not home.  They can just drive by and see who has not picked up their literature days later.  They have various excuses even when  found at the rear of a property - like that they are measuring your yard for a fence or landscape services.  Residents who took the time and care to have their newspapers and mail arranged while away, have their efforts undone.  Those on shift work or needing to sleep are needlessly disturbed. 

3) Those who chose not to live where commerce is conducted have found the commerce brought to them.         

4) One concern that we have in Abington is that the rezoning of our town includes many areas that are going to be rezoned mixed-use without the knowledge and consent of the residents that live in them currently who had chosen residential areas by design.  The less traffic, the fewer the number of strangers, the safer they feel. The more peace and quiet, etc.       

5) If you believe an increase in the number of transients  poses no danger whatsoever, I would like to see your statistics.  I asked that of our Police Chief and I have yet to see any such statistics.
    
 6) Nearly no one is signed up to solicit - while the number of solicitors appearing at our doors has ballooned since word got out that they could solicit here. In 2011 or 2012 an ordinance was passed requiring them to pay and to register . What in the original ordinance was $100 per day became $200 per month .

7) Who has the right to throw whatever they want on my property, requiring me to pick it up or marking my house as empty while I am away ?  The second ordinance  enacted  in 20011 or 2012  was brought about because the Trend newspaper was tossed willy-nilly on any/every lawn they chose, “marking” those not home rather easily.  The legislation passed made things worse by dictating  that unless residents took their own time, effort and expense to find out the correct address &  write a letter to the perpetrator, it was permitted. You’re kidding right ?  Even AFTER jumping through all those hoops many were still  ignored.   We are being told that the same law applies to the little “baggies” and all other advertising tossed on your property by anyone who chooses, the vast majority of whom seem not to be registered at all.  Really? To whom would I write?  I have no clue who’s going to do it tomorrow.  How many letters per individual are reasonable per year ?  Where are the people whose duty by oath it was to  protect the health, safety and welfare and the LAWS - such as littering laws?  (see above )

     Commissioners, here are some  points that I hope you will hear:
#1 Unwanted junk  on my property is trash/litter – nothing more. I believe I have a right to have the litter laws enforced, not undermined.
#2 Items left when residents are away are open invitations for criminals to see who is and is not home  - our police should be rallying against this practice
#3 It is  an affront to both personal and property rights to require my time, efforts &  expense whenever businesses choose to target me
#4  No one is being  prevented from leaving literature for me - I have a receptacle for that purpose called a mail box.  It works . You pay instead of me. My mailbox means you can contact me about business without me entertaining transients at my door until 9 pm. It means I can have my mail and paper picked up while I'm away so my house looks normal. It gives me an opportunity to stop the deliveries altogether of such unwanted advertising . It's a sytem already in place and it works.
#5 The police do NOT know how many are in violation, contrary to Chief Kelly’s testimony. If  they knew they would surely have been stopped.  
#6  Few citations have been issued not because few were warranted….. Of all the illegal people that I called about, only only a couplde have been issued a citation
#7  The ones being caught illegally soliciting may not even be paying the fee after they are found  – I do not see them  listed as “signed up” to this very day.
#8  If “the law is the law and they are required to follow it “ – then it would be our officials’  job to work to get the law changed, as we are doing with the Billboards.  We have recently watched our Chief vociferously  try to change the dispatch regulations at great time and expense on his part. We expect the same for solicitation .
#9 Residents are now being encouraged to call 911 if they have so much as a question about a solicitor . Using the 911 system this way is contrary to its intentand we should not  have to have an officer dispatched to our home ( another inconvenience).  There should be a simple information line – and the website could be used to post the names of the solicitors to see if they are there legally.  
#10 Solicitors also could be encouraged to show their permits at the outset of every encounter, which would provide great awareness township wide that here is a registration system.

       Our community groups,  our Commissioners and our Township officials  are all in a position to improve this situation before others need suffer the direct consequences of our residential areas being inundated with transients, even after dark, and from having their homes marked when  they  are away.

     We were told that it was the law that these solicitors were to be allowed in our neighborhoods.  When we have bad laws that are working for us, our legislators and the people that we pay to manage our Township should be working to change those laws.  The Chief  had no problem protesting the county's edict that a central 911 call system be set up.  He spent a great deal of time and money making presentations and telling people that we would be less safe.  I would like him to do that on behalf of the solicitation laws.   If statistics cannot be provided that we are more safe with all of these transients in our neighborhoods, and when we understand that burglars and crooks often succeed at their "craft" by then I would like our representatives in our government to change any law on behalf of their oath to protect our health safety and welfare.

  THE RULES AND ARE THEY WORKING ? 
Rules: solicitors must sign up at the Township building and pay $100 a day ( soon to be $200 per month )  to be able to solicit. But guess what ? -- They are all over our neighborhoods since this passed and  not a single one that I have called is legally registered.  They are throwing things in the driveway and they are taping things to mailboxes, so you only have to drive up and down the street to see who hasn't been home  for a week.  People who carefully have their mail and papers taken in, cannot  protect themselves from this kind of intrusion.  The police have seemed helpless to do anything and to my knowledge have not cited or fined a single person for leaving the literature without registering.  One who was a third time offender  we have been told would be cited. Was he? Did he pay?  I was told that letters would be sent out warning them. As of this writing I have received no copied of any- I did request them for those who solicited at my door and were unregistered.

       Before this ordinance was passed , I did not have to pay my Township personnel to send out letters, or my police to come and inspect the "evidence".  It was a completely rare occurrence that may have happened tow or 3 x a year .  Why are the ones breaking the law not paying for the officers and clerical time?  Why do we not have a publicly published list of those who have been warned.  We should also have an accounting of what the cost of all this police time is versus the money that they have collected from the offenders.  The law is simply not working.  Law abiding citizens footing the bill puts the shoe on the wrong foot. And if there If there is no will to cite the lawbreakers,   the victims pay, as they do in so many instances.   Before this was passed, our rights were largely respected. 

   WHAT YOU CAN DO  - You should call the Township each time you get a flyer, card or solicitor at your door .  Call the Records office  267-536-1100 x 1047  to see if they are registered .  If they are not, then send a copy of the evidence to  the township, or call an officer to take a report or fax a copy to the Township  ( Fax #  215-886-1455 attention Susan Dixon )  and ask them to make sure they keep a log of these calls/violations reported.  I would also ask that you  send the name of the contractor to me with a quick email  so we can get an overall picture of who is doing this and if action is being taken  

Chief Kelly ( circa 5-12 ) suggested that anyone who has a question just call the 911 system and an officer will be sent out.   A policy that does not enable the officer to cite someone who has been delivering a flyer at a door unless an emergency number is called, is simply a wrongheaded policy.  Our emergency system has been set up for emergencies.  The new dispatch requires that any time you need an officer, you must call the emergency number even if it's not an emergency.  In my opinion, flooding the 911 system with calls like this will make us less safe.  It will be outrageously costly because 911 officers have to be trained for serious emergencies .  In addition, individuals will be inclined not to call because no one wants to cry wolf and declare emergencies where they don't exist.  And on top of that, no Abington resident should be inconvenienced by needing to host police officers in their home because they were targeted by a commercial company.  Every single thing about this policy is wrong in my belief.  Please share your thoughts with me on this. 

   YOU CAN ALSO OPT OUT  BUT...... : The ordinance provides for you to  sign up on the list at the Township building and solicitors are given your house number and told that they may not solicit there. But.......... since almost none of  solicitors are going to the Township building first, this provision of the ordinance is pretty much useless.

  NO TRESPASSING  : You may post a no solicitation or no trespassing sign : but that can be threatening to neighbors providing valuable information you may want and need or neighbors who would like to invite you  or others with friendly causes like the children whose school drive you may want to support.   I know I don't want to have a community like that,  just because my township failed to keep commercial solicitors out of the neighborhood, which all of us want .

  YOUR VOICE NEEDED  : Ask your Commissioner to amend the ordinance so no one is allowed to leave information at your door ( their trash on your property ) which may indicate you're not home.  If they want to get information to you, we have mailboxes for that .  Ask that any and all solicitors be required to have their full contact info visible as they walk in our neighborhoods, on both sides ( so that it can't be "turned around" and that they are required to have their registration permit # on any literature they hand you . This will help residents know immediately that they are required to do this and they will know that when others don't have it they are there illegally, have not been "vetted even so far as to have provided a name and phone #  .  

   BETTER YET .... ask your Commissioners and your Chief of Police and Township Manager to stand up for your rights  ---  to gather together with other Townships and challenge the State Law that they are saying "requires " them to allow solicitors ( We believe there is plenty of law that allows Commercial Solicitors  to be excluded for reasons of safety )  


1 YEAR UPDATE 
11-10 Update a year after the passing   :  The solicitation ordinance that was passed by year ago has spawned a proliferation of solicitors that are now "legally" in our neighborhoods - though most are NOT legal .  In my opinion, it has made our Township substantially more dangerous  -  in many ways.

  PROBLEMS WITH THE ORDINANCE AS PASSED

Solicitors are now allowed at any door in the Township that does not post a no trespassing or no solicitation sign, or is not on the Township sign-up list ( and let's face it most residents do not even know about the Township sign-up list---and even if they do sign up solicitors regularly violate all  regulations, this one would certainly be no different )

Solicitors apparently are not required even to have full contact information
on flyers that they leave at your door, so you have no way of knowing who has been at your door -nor are they required to leave notice that they have been there. One solicitor, a curb # painter, had flyers all over the Township but could not even be located by the Township-so they certainly had not signed up, nor paid.

No one wants to cry wolf - so we pay less attention now that we know the people going up and down our driveways and at our doors could be legal. Before, we were alert when we saw someone go to more than one house. We watched out for each other and had few strangers in our neighborhoods to worry about.

Even legitimately signed up solicitors can be casing your house for someone else. I do not want to post a no trespassing sign to discourage friends neighbors or others ( by law every one is to pay attention to such a sign) and yet - I do not want every Tom Dick and Harry to be able to come beyond the end of my driveway where the public sidewalk is.  I could sign up on the "do not solicit list on the Township" but since only a tiny fraction of residents know about this list and since all the rules and regulations are regularly disregarded by solicitors, this is not a reasonable solution to a Township wide problem.

Our elderly, and people who live alone are more vulnerable. It is absurd to create a law, when there are so many other ways to do business, that would put both my family, and disabled, elderly, or those who are alone at greater risk

 How is it corporate voices have been put ahead of ours again?  I would venture a guess that very few really want this  --  so if our legislators are working in our interests, this kind of thing should not keep happening again and again. Like many other things that we have been forced into to accommodate businesses, we should be opting in not having to opt out. 

 

________________________________________

 

Things that led up to the passing of this ordinance

  On Dec 10th 2009  the Township will hold a hearing about passing an ordinance  that  does 3 things:

A)  It would allow  commercial solicitors to obtain a permit and come to your door  and

B) It has a section on "canvassers"  who would also have to comply with no solicitation signs. Included in this definition are those who :      ." ..... conduct any similar work [to those doing surveys or coming for religious or political purposes] which, by its nature, involves door-to-door or  place-to-place   activity, including distribution of circulars but not  for  commercial activity of any kind."

C) Permit  fees are set at $100 per day , prohibitive to your neighbor's son starting his own landscaping venture who might mow your lawn at 1/2 the price, but a large company who charges much more would be welcome to meet these fees and hire people to solicit township wide -another example of how the big guys bump out everyone else & keep prices high .

So let's see --   Neighbors letting neighbors know about issues like .......the re-zoning......like the Old York Road Corridor..... like a  block party ...... or like this ordinance could be required to cease & desist or face the penalties  the way the language is written currently, if they wanted to be free to let ALL neighbors know . And people who didn't want solicitors SELLING things and had to post a no solicitation sign to prevent that, would now be blocking out things they might want.   This does not really work well for us, as residents who need more communication and more information  in our government process,  does it?

    When I suggested that we needed language to ensure that neighbors were not inhibited from  talking to their neighbors - especially about important issues, it was suggested in return to me  that "selective enforcement " might even take place - the police might not bother some for violating this ordinance.   OK but  with a single "complaint" you might be in fear of suffering the $100 to $1,000  fine (and imprisonment).  Can you imagine the effect this would have on communication between residents  (which already needs as much help as it can get ) .  Communications at virtually every level have already in this township have been interfered with. You only have to watch the Nov 12 , 2009 Commissioners meeting to see how hard the Commissioners  work to keep me from reading out the above wording so that the others in the room know what I am talking about.  The interference has done a great deal to keep residents in the dark about what their government officials are doing. 

 Advertised in November, this item  will apparently come up for a hearing Dec 10th
_____________________________
Here are some things for you to consider .
 

First  - do you believe that the township should even allow commercial enterprises onto your doorstep? There are issues of people on shift work having their peace disturbed, for instance,  as well as security issues . Unless the majority wants this - we should have a legal right to curtail this annoyance.,

Second - if we are somehow "forced" into this  (not without a fight, I would hope ) should it be that those who DO want to allow solicitors to come up to their doors post a "Solicitors Allowed" sign  rather that the other way around.  There is some case law about that I believe but I think we would want to examine this thoroughly.  If the case law was obtained while citizens were uniformed, it would explain a lot.    

Third  - shouldn't there be strong and specific language in this ordinance that this policy does not apply to neighbors sharing information with neighbors or coming with an invitation or coming to talk about a tree limb  or other matter. Our prior ordinance did not exclude non-profits or political candidates or neighbors - which is why I believe it DID conform with the law . 

Fourth - shouldn't there  be a strong differentiation between  commercial solicitors /canvassers/ and neighbors-   and shouldn't we make sure that is spelled out clearly & no one is forced into blocking out all just because they want to b
lock out one. There are 5 groups ---  Solicitors as commercial-for funds/ Non- Profits for funds / Non- Profits for info not funds  / Canvassers for info not funds / Neighbors for info not funds  .
These are   5 completely separate concepts. Otherwise no one will be able to have others at their door if they do not also want commercial solicitors.

___________________________________________

The solicitor has told us case law now requires us to permit the commercial. But when I asked for the case law, what my commissioner gave me did not seem to me to verify a need to change at all

One was Town of Green River, Wyoming vs. Fuller Brush Company, 65 F.2d 112 (10th Cir. 1933) and that one was LOST by Fuller Brush company and there is much discussion on the internet about that decision being upheld.  Where those ordinances have been challenged is where they tried to exclude  religious or other entities along with the commercial.

The second was  Edenfield v. Fane, 507 U.S. 761 (1993). and this seems not to be  directly about door to door solicitation at all - the case involves phone & other direct contact. 

If the law as it stands - or "case law"  was the end all or be all of what was legal - we would never see two lawyers on opposite sides of an issue. And I believe that many other townships could be considered possible allies in this issue . I have seen our township  expose us to litigation in areas where our saftey was not an issue & for benefits that only a small number of residents will enjoy the advantages of ----  I would certainly like to think that my township would work for my interests here.

The Commissioners voted Nov 14th  2009 to allow the advertising of this ordinance

Please share your opinion by clicking here .....

 

 

 

__________________________________________________________

  If you have any updated information, or something you would like to share, please Send your the information to: lel@abingtoncitizens.com 


 

 


 

 

BROKEN LINKS ALERT  

Abington Township recently completely revamped their website at the end of 2015 . All links directed to the old site were broken. We will be reinstating links as we find them and if the data is still available.  
Please  let us know if you find a broken link . Send us the name of the link and the page it is on , and if we can reinstate it, we will.

 


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