Ascension eyes clampdown on door-to-door peddling

Residents of Ascension Parish may soon be able to sit down at the dinner table without worrying about who might come knocking on their front door.

The Ascension Parish Council is considering an ordinance that would eliminate or greatly restrict unsolicited door-to-door peddling and solicitation in the parish.

“The Parish has a substantial interest in protecting the well-being, tranquility, personal safety, and privacy of its citizens, which includes the ability to protect citizens from unwanted intrusions upon residential property,” the ordinance reads.

Council Chairman Chris Loar said the ordinance is designed to increase safety and also to allow residents to spend time in their homes without worrying about being disturbed by someone trying to sell them unsolicited material.

“I think it’s an outdated model, frankly, with the Internet and everything else today,” Loar said. “It’s certainly an inconvenience, and I think it’s an intrusion on people’s privacy.”

Anyone caught violating the new ordinance, which will be up for final adoption at the council’s next meeting on June 20, could be sentenced to serve up to 30 days in the parish jail and receive a fine not exceeding $500.

The ordinance targets traveling salesmen who make their living going from door to door and neighborhood to neighborhood selling any number of items, including food and electronics.

Tony Bacala, the chief deputy of the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office, said the ordinance also would protect residents against potential fraud.

Recently, Bacala said, there has been an increase in out-of-town salesmen who go from house to house in a neighborhood trying to sell various items. That type of system is ripe for abuse and fraud, and the new ordinance would increase
restrictions and make such salespersons get a permit from the parish in order to do business.

“Most of them that we’ve encountered have criminal histories,” Bacala said. “It’s questionable whether you will actually receive the product that you’ve agreed to buy.”

Loar added, “They’ll have to go through a bunch of hoops to prove they’re a legitimate business.”

Those extra checks include paying for an occupational license, bond, vehicle or location inspection and a list of intended sales sites.

The ordinance also makes provisions that would allow certain groups to maintain door-to-door sales, such as children or youths selling Girl Scout cookies or fundraising for local schools and people selling their own agricultural products if annual sales receipts don’t exceed $5,000.

Religious groups, such as Jehovah’s Witnesses or Mormon missionaries, will be exempted from the ordinance, as will door-to-door political campaigning.

But the ordinance likely will cut down on a number of nuisances that parish residents have to face, as Bacala said the Sheriff’s Office has received a number of complaints about the “nightmare” situation.

“We’re not eliminating it; we’re regulating it,” Bacala said.