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Concord reviews door-to-door sales restrictions

Concord’s legal department is recommending the city’s ban on door-to-door sales after 7 p.m. remain in place, after reviewing a letter from a security company threatening legal action.

Time restrictions are permitted by law to protect residents’ safety, Deputy City Solicitor Danielle Pacik wrote in a report to the mayor and city councilors. But she did recommend one change to address complaints from Utah-based Pinnacle Security: If approved by the Concord City Council tonight, door-to-door salesmen will have to register with the police department once a month instead of on a weekly basis.

In June, Pinnacle Security threatened legal action against the city if it did not change its solicitation ordinance. The city’s time restrictions and registration requirements “are unconstitutional restrictions of commercial speech,” the company wrote in a letter to Concord Mayor Jim Bouley.

While the U.S. Supreme Court recognizes First Amendment rights for door-to-door solicitors, Pacik wrote in her report dated Sept. 25 that reasonable restrictions are permitted.

“The city’s interest in prohibiting solicitation on residential property between the hours of 7 p.m. and 9 a.m. . . . is to prevent crime and fraud, promote safety and security, and preserve residential tranquility,” she wrote. “These interests have been recognized as substantial government interests.”

The city council passed the ordinance after a Concord woman was raped in 2005 by three magazine salesmen. The men were convicted of aggravated felonious sexual assault, conspiracy, theft by unauthorized taking and sexual assault.

City officials have not heard from the security company since receiving the letter, City Manager Tom Aspell said last week. But it’s common practice for the city to review ordinances when it receives complaints, he said. “We looked at it based on what we know today,” Aspell said.

Concord police Chief John Duval said the ordinance protects Concord residents.

“Obviously the safety and security of our citizens is our primary concern,” Duval said. “And from our experience, the nature of door-to-door solicitation presents a host of problems for us. . . . We have found that since the restrictions were in place . . . that we’ve had great success in containing a lot of abuses and problems.”

Duval said the city has a “zero-tolerance approach” when dealing with salesmen who don’t follow the ordinance. Salesmen for many different companies come from out of town, he said, and some have been found to have criminal records. He said the police arrest salesmen who fail to register with the city or travel door-to-door during restricted hours.

Duval said Pinnacle Security had done business in Concord before it wrote the letter this year. He was not aware if his department has received specific complaints against its salesmen.

The company argued in its June letter that it understands the city’s concern for safety.

“In fact, Pinnacle alarms are sold with the express hope that they will reduce crime in the community, helping to meet a substantial governmental interest in deterring crime,” the company wrote.

The company has an F rating from the Better Business Bureau and, according to the bureau’s website, has faced legal action in more than one state.

At the end of October, Pinnacle Security agreed to pay a $1 million fine in Illinois after state officials accused the company of hiring accused and convicted felons to sell its product and using deceptive sales practices, The Chicago Tribune reported. The company also agreed to stop selling to Illinois residents for two years, according to the Tribune.

A company spokesman did not return requests for comment yesterday.

On its own website and in a statement released to the Tribune after its settlement in Illinois, Pinnacle Security calls complaints against it “historical issues.”

The city council will hold a public hearing on the proposed ordinance change at its meeting tonight at 7 p.m. in its chambers on Green Street.

(Laura McCrystal can be reached at 369-3312 or lmccrystal@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @lmccrystal.)

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