February 3, 2013

Police continually address solicitation

Selling, asking for money on the street not always illegal

February 3, 2013 Jason Schaefer The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — If you’re bothered by folks asking you for money or selling things on the side of the street, you might be interested to discover that while solicitation in certain areas and at certain times is illegal under city law, it is not always so.

Making a request to a person on the street for the donation of money or other things, or selling items or services for an amount that far exceeds its value, is defined in the Valdosta city code as solicitation.

Solicitation is illegal within the Hospitality and Commercial district, which includes commercial areas like downtown; the Valdosta Mall and shopping areas along St. Augustine Road, Baytree Road and I-75 from Baytree to Hill Avenue; Valdosta State University and the Five Points area.

Other roads grouped into this district include Patterson and Ashley streets, North Oak Street from Brookwood Drive to Magnolia Street, and St. Augustine Road.

Solicitation is also illegal on private property, so door-to-door salesmen are not welcome.

Also listed as illegal in the ordinance are solicitations within 30 feet of ATM machines, lines of pedestrians waiting to gain access to a building or event, pay phones, and entrances to buildings and parking lots.

But false stories about being from out of town and stranded; having served in the armed services; wearing or displaying an indication of physical disability; simulating a physical deformity; and claiming homelessness are illegal. Aggressive solicitation, or "never taking no for an answer," is never allowed.

Outside of these areas, solicitation is allowed, provided solicitors stop selling or asking for money at 8 p.m., and don't start before 8 a.m.

The Valdosta Police Department routinely receives complaints about solicitation, usually from businesses and shoppers in the mall area, according to Cmdr. Brian Childress. While police could take a solicitor into custody, more often solicitors are cited.

"If we catch you doing it again, you could be arrested and be required to post a cash bond for that violation," Childress said. "We generally issue a citation and a court summons for solicitors. But if we get there, issue a summons, and they continue to do it, we can put them in handcuffs, take them to jail and make them post bond."

Police also have the power to apprehend solicitors if they believe there is little chance the solicitor will appear in court, Childress said.

Soliciting isn't only an issue of public disturbance; it's also an issue of welfare.

"Some of these places, especially in the mall area, they're awfully dangerous places to be soliciting anyway," Childress said. "You have all that traffic."

In special circumstances, solicitors can apply for a permit through the City licensing office to peddle in residential areas. Childress advises solicitors to understand the rules and to read the four-page ordinance.

Repeat offenses or continued solicitation charges could result in a fine up to $1,000 or up to 30 days of jail time.


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