, Gloucester, MA

December 3, 2012

Editorial: Safety comes first on vendor bylaw

Gloucester Daily Times

---- — A proposed Rockport bylaw aiming to better keep tabs on door-to-door sales people, street vendors and others doing what might, at best, be termed a necessary evil. But given the potential fraud and safety concerns at hand, the emphasis should be on the word “necessary” far more than “evil.”

The proposal, pushed by Rockport Chief of Police John “Tom” McCarthy, calls for all door-to-door salesmen, pawn dealers, alcohol license holders and ice cream truck vendors to obtain license granted through more rigorous background checks, including fingerprinting.

McCarthy says that, while no single incident spurred the proposal — now before the Town Government and Bylaw Committee — solicitor and door-to-door sales visitors can be especially disconcerting to elderly residents. And the chief is right to try to assure those residents that anyone selling door-to-door in their neighborhood is on the up-and-up, and does not pose a safety threat. The best way to do that is through licensing – and through thoroughly checking applicants’ backgrounds when they seek their licenses to operate.

Peter Goodwin, who co-chairs the Government and Bylaw panel, has some concerns about the bylaw — and that’s understandable, considering that running background checks and taking fingerprints can raise civil rights issues. But residents have a right to feel safe as well, especially when they answer their own doorbells and find someone trying to sell them a product.

There’s no question this proposed bylaw needs more discussion. But officials and residents doing the talking should wade into this issue with a basic premise — safety comes first.