A group of transient merchants in Hays has raised concern among residents this week, but the Hays Police Department said the group is not doing anything illegal.
While HPD has received many calls since Tuesday about a group of people selling magazines door-to-door in town, Lt. Brandon Wright said officers have not determined any illegal activity.
It is actually rare when that happens, Wright said.
“Occasionally we have merchants come in that use some high-pressure sales tactics that can be invasive. They should not be trying to enter people’s homes without their permission. They should leave when told to leave,” he said.
“That’s when it can get into some criminal offenses, but that’s pretty rare,” he said.
While police have not received reports of such offenses, Facebook posts by residents have included descriptions of unusual behavior by some of the people and speculation of substance use.
Wright said police have not determined that is the case, however.
“When we get the call we will go try to find them. Most of the time we can find them. They’re usually pretty conspicuous. We’ll check them out, and check out their story and try to determine if there is anything illegal going on and give them some cautions of what they could do that could get them in trouble,” he said.
The groups tend to stay in town for one to three days before moving on, Wright said. Most actually check in with the police department before starting their sales.
“Whoever the leader of their group is often will give us their drivers license and contact information and things like that. A lot of times they come into town looking to see if they need to purchase a license or get a permit,” he said.
In Hays, a transient peddler’s or solicitor’s license has not been required since December 2009, City Manger City Dougherty said.
The city repealed its ordinance after being informed of a Supreme Court case that invalidated such laws.
The city commission discussed a replacement ordinance in 2011, but could not agree what type of ordinance to put in place, according to minutes from the Dec. 30, 2011, meeting.
“My recollection was it had to be absolutely, uniformly applied, and so you couldn’t put in special provisions for Girl Scouts and school fundraisers and things like that,” Dougherty said.
Dougherty and Wright suggested anyone who does not want salespeople coming to their door should put up a “no solicitation” sign.
Doing so does not automatically mean if a salesperson knocks on the door they are breaking the law, however.
“Anybody can walk up to your front door, your mailman or anyone else,” Wright said.
If a “no trespassing” sign is on a fenced front yard but a salesperson still enters, or if the salesperson enters the home without permission or won’t leave when asked, then a criminal violation is possible and people should then call the police, he said.
In addition, Wright said residents should be careful about divulging personal information to a door-to-door salesperson.