The knock on his rambler's front door last November didn't alarm Brooklyn Park resident Ryan Jancik. It's what came after, when Jancik left the salesman's knock unanswered and then heard the stranger try to turn his doorknob.
The unsettling incident spurred Jancik to call the police and contact City Hall. It also made him realize, he said, that the city's process for licensing and regulating door-to-door sales needed work.
Brooklyn Park city officials and police agree.
Pushy or aggressive sales tactics and "questionable applicants" getting peddler or solicitor licenses have galvanized new efforts to review and update Brooklyn Park's code.
"It's one of these ordinances that hadn't been looked at for a long time, and it was outdated," said Keith Jullie, Brooklyn Park's rental and business licensing manager. "[Jancik] was the one who brought it to our attention and got the ball rolling."
Now city officials are working to streamline how licenses are issued and regulated. That includes updating the penalties for violations, requiring background checks for all door-to-door salespeople, fee increases for licenses to deter "fly-by-night" applicants and issuing identification cards for those with doorstep pitches. City Council members approved a first reading of the changes late last month and are expected to make their final vote Aug. 27.
"It's probably long overdue," Mayor Jeff Lunde said. "Someone should be able to see at a glance if they are legitimate."
Many cities are requiring licenses for such sales, said Dan Hendrickson, communications manager at the Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota.
"It's tightening up," Hendrickson said. "More cities are looking at this or have already put things in place."
Currently, Brooklyn Park requires a license as well as a background check for peddlers — defined in the city's code as carrying the sales product or goods with them — but not for solicitors, who currently only pay a $50 registration fee.
The rule change would require all door-to-door salespeople get a $200 background check and a license. City staff is proposing a $100 fee for a 30-day license and $300 for a six-month license.
"We just want to make sure that we are covering our costs," Jullie said.
At the July 23 first reading, Council Member Susan Pha voiced concern that the fees would be too high. Council members also raised questions about whether to require city-issued IDs for fundraising groups, nonprofits and those who may be otherwise exempted from getting a license.
City staff says tightening the license period and boosting the fees will provide more control over door-to-door sales. Jullie said the city revoked a solicitor permit from a Kirby vacuum salesman after he damaged some yard ornaments and "made a ruckus" when a homeowner asked him to leave during a pitch last year. Other cities have had similar trouble with pushy vacuum sales tactics.
Jancik, a crime watch captain, did some digging into the roofing and siding solicitor who came knocking last November and said he discovered that the man should have been barred from getting a license under the city's code based on his criminal history.
In the months since, Jancik has worked with city officials to identify problems with Brooklyn Park's current ordinance.
"It was just a really good process and refreshing to see how the city staff responded," he said. "It went from a negative experience to a very positive experience."