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Solicitors 'spring' into action throughout South Hills

| Wednesday, May 8, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

There's a knock at the front door.

It's a young woman trying to convince you of the benefits that you possibly could receive from changing your energy service provider, or a man, clipboard in hand, offering roof repairs after the latest storm.

Then there are the politicians coming by to meet the residents of the community where they're running and groups trying to raise money for their causes.

South Hills residents and local officials alike agree that with the warmer temperatures, there has been an increase in solicitors and canvassers in the area.

Along with that comes the calls to the local police with worries about the stranger walking down the street or approaching a house.

“It's good the residents are looking out for each other,” Pleasant Hills police Chief Edward Cunningham said.

Local municipalities have rules in place for solicitation — requiring those going door to door to carry identification materials and set hours for when canvassers and solicitors are allowed to knock on doors. Many South Hills communities have lists of homes where the residents have requested not to be bothered by a solicitor.

In Baldwin Borough, anyone planning to solicit is required to get a permit from the police before going door to door, police Chief Michael Scott said. The only people exempt from this are those representing nonprofit, political or religious groups, which are protected by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allows them to canvass any area.

Before a permit is provided, a criminal-record check is done on the people who want to knock on doors in the municipality.

“Anybody that has anything more than a DUI, I don't approve,” Scott said. “Sometimes, a company will come in with 30 people, and I'll reject two or three of them.”

To get a solicitation permit in Baldwin, a resident pays $15 a week, $50 a month or $75 for three months. A nonresident pays $10 per person per day.

Pleasant Hills, Brentwood and Whitehall all have similar structures. Time restrictions also are set.

“Everybody's ordinance is different,” Whitehall police Chief Donald Dolfi said.

Whitehall Borough outlines different time restrictions, based on who is going door to door.

For instance, canvassers — those representing nonprofits, religious groups and the like, that are protected by a the Supreme Court decision — can go door to door seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Dolfi said. Peddlers, such as those selling encyclopedias, have a time frame of 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Those groups taking surveys and the like have from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

In Baldwin Borough, solicitors are allowed to go door to door from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Residents who do not want to have solicitors coming to their front door — at least the ones who are required to get a borough permit — can sign up for a list at their borough offices or police departments in Baldwin Borough, Pleasant Hills, Brentwood and Whitehall.

Pleasant Hills provides residents who sign up for the “no-solicitation” list with stickers to place on their front door, Cunningham said.

But the only way to be certain that a solicitor or canvasser will not come to one's door is to post a “no trespassing” sign on the property, Dolfi said.

Still, if a resident sees a person who looks out of place, the best thing to do is to call the police, local chiefs say.

“If you glance out and you see something and it causes you to look back — maybe that's worth a call to the police to have it checked out,” Dolfi said.

Baldwin Borough received 13 calls for complaints regarding solicitors so far this year.

Stephanie Hacke is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5818 or shacke@tribweb.com.

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