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Sheriff's Office, State Attorney General Sound the Alarm on Magazine Solicitors

The King County Sheriff's Office has initiated a directed patrol mission to track the door-to-door salespeople in unincorporated Redmond.

A wave of complaints about magazine sellers in unincorporated Redmond has prompted the King County Sheriff's Office to start a directed patrol mission and distribute information on how to keep the solicitors away.

According to Deputy Jeff Flohr, the sheriff's office has received more than 25 calls for service with regards to magazine solicitors so far this year. In October 2011, the King County Council (KCC 12.66.010) so that deputies may issue $100 citations to solicitors who attempt to sell their products to residents with "no trespassing" or "no soliciting" signs on their property.

A similar law prohibiting solicitors from attempting to sell where "no solicitation" signs are present also exists in the City of Redmond, but Redmond Police Department spokesman Jim Bove said enforcement can be tricky—especially if police are not there to see the solicitation. Two magazine sellers without the required permits were arrested May 12 after an officer spotted the pair attempting to solicit a home in the Education Hill area, but arrests of solicitors are "not very common" in the city, Bove said.

Although it's not necessarily a requirement that an officer observe an unlawful solicitation, Bove said the eyewitness account can be helpful in leading to an arrest. In King County, deputies have a much better chance of being able to give out a citation if they receive a report while the solicitor is still in the vicinity, Flohr said. A detailed physical description of the person also helps.

“There’s going to have to be a component of the citizen participating on this—unless we see it ourselves,” Flohr said.

No citations have been given in unincorporated Redmond so far this year, but Flohr said he expects that to change with the launch of the directed patrol mission last Friday. (Unlawful solicitators cannot be arrested in King County.) Right now, deputies are working to educate both solicitors and residents on what's legal and illegal in King County, he said.

“More so than (citations or arrests), we’d like to educate and steer the problem away,” he said.

Problem getting worse?

Kate Johnston, who lives near Ames Lake in unincorporated Redmond, said magazine solicitors have long been an issue in her neighborhood but a recent uptick in activity has many residents concerned.

Some magazine sellers have been "very aggressive," Johnston said, and stayed on residents' property even after they were asked to leave. One solicitor even complimented a female resident's eyes in an attempt to talk her into making a purchase, Johnston said, adding that she is worried the solicitors are getting more brazen and will eventually threaten someone's physical safety.

“It’s not 'if,' it’s 'when' something is going to happen,” she said.

Meanwhile, Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna issued a news release Monday warning residents that many magazine solicitors are out to scam people and never deliver their product.

“Unfortunately, (a) common theme is that time and again, consumers throughout the country never receive the magazines they purchased, or hear from the sellers again, and have no idea what happened to their money,” McKenna said in a prepared statement.

The release also said many magazine sellers claim to be working for a nonprofit or religious organization. Others will "appear on doorsteps claiming outrageously priced subscriptions will help fund 'second chance' opportunities for inner city youth," the release stated.

Although laws in both King County and the City of Redmond prohibit solicitors from attempting to sell products at homes with "no solicitation" signs, King County provides an exception to people seeking donations for nonprofits, and the city does not require such individuals to obtain a solicitor's permit.

Even so, Jim Bove, community outreach facilitator for the , said he would advise residents not to give money to unknown people who show up on their doorstep—regardless of whom they claim to represent.

“I would just tell people, if they don’t know the person, don’t give them money,” he said.

Other tips for residents

Here are some additional tips the King County Sheriff's office is distributing to residents in unincorporated Redmond (also included on attached PDF):

Personal Safety and Crime Prevention

  • Post an easily visible "No Trespassing" or "No Soliciting" sign on your property.
  • You are not obligated to answer the door—if uninvited persons disregard your sign and remain on your property, call police.
  • NEVER purchase or donate anything “just to get rid of the solicitor”
  • NEVER allow a stranger inside your home—common ruses: wanting a drink of water, needing a solid surface to write receipt, needing to use your phone or bathroom.

How You Can Help

  • If you speak with a solicitor or see one violate the KCC—call 206-296-3311 and provide a witness statement.
  • Acknowledge and ask questions of solicitors you see in your neighborhood; it sends a message that neighbors are watching out for others in the area.
  • Document solicitor information and get photos if possible, to help identify violators.

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Editor's note: This story was revised a few minutes after it was posted to include additional information from Deputy Flohr.

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