GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

November 28, 2012

Rockport seeks new clamps on peddlers

By James Niedzinski
Staff Writer

---- — ROCKPORT — A new proposed bylaw may mark the end of the line for traveling salesmen in town — or at least those who do not pass a proper background check.

The proposed Rockport bylaw, advanced by police chief John McCarthy, will force door-to-door salesmen, hawkers, cab drivers, pawn dealers alcohol license holders and ice cream truck vendors to go through more rigorous background checks and fingerprinting.

McCarthy said there was no one specific incident bringing this bylaw forward, but solicitors and door to door salesmen have targeted elderly residents in the past, pressuring them to buy things and sign up for mailing lists, and a number of those residents have called police.

“I think every community has its own issues,” McCarthy said. “This (door to door salesmen) is one of ours.”

The chief added that cabbies or ice cream truck drivers are not a common problem in Rockport — and the town does not have a locally based taxi service. The town’s bylaws would not apply to taxi companies based in Gloucester or elsewhere.

Gov. Deval Patrick signed off on legislation in August 2010 that reformed the Criminal Offender Record Information Act. Other communities within the Commonwealth have changed their bylaws with new CORI standards since then.

The proposed Rockport bylaw was the subject of a lengthy discussion at a Town Government and Bylaw Committee meeting on Monday night.

Peter Goodwin, who co-chairs the committee, said he has some concerns about the bylaw.

”We had some questions on how well it was written,” he said Wednesday.

Goodwin added that the two-page proposal was rather long for a bylaw, and some segments may be confusing for some people. He has been gathering information from the towns of Littleton, North Reading and Wellesley, all of which passed similar initiatives in the past.

Goodwin also noted that people often take up the civil rights issue when it comes to background checks.

McCarthy, too, acknowledged that issue could come up, although he hasn’t heard of any complaints yet.

The text states the license applicant must pay a $100 background check fee, and the Police Department will send prints to the Massachusetts State Police, the state Department of Criminal Justice Information Services and the FBI for state and national background check information.

The proposed bylaw states the town will only use the information from the background checks will only be used for use of license applications to vendors and solicitors. But people would also be able to appeal or correct any information on the results of their background check.

Although the bylaw has more steps to go through before it can be put on the Town Warrant and voted upon, Goodwin said he is continuing to look at how other towns have worded their newly adapted bylaws, as well.

James Niedzinski can be reached at 978-283-7000, x 3455 or at jniedzinski@gloucestertimes.com.