Aggressive door-to-door solicitors in Petaluma irritated residents enough in recent weeks to prompt complaints to police, leading to the arrest of four people Wednesday night for selling without a permit.
About 30 residents reported hostile, aggressive or suspicious behavior from people on their doorsteps who said they were selling magazines or collecting money for charities, said Petaluma Sgt. Ken Savano.
Six of the calls came in on Wednesday, from 3 to 8 p.m., from westside residents.
Officers found four people in the I Street area who said they were selling magazines for a company in Omaha, Nebraska, called Excellent Sales.
The four, residents of Oakland, San Jose and Texas, told officers they'd been dropped off in Petaluma earlier in the day after travelling in a van from San Jose. Others in the van were dropped in other cities along Highway 101.
Excellent Sales did not have the required permit to conduct sales in Petaluma, said Savano.
Getting a permit for door-to-door sales requires a criminal background check on the salesmen and verification that the company is legitimate.
The three men and one woman were arrested on suspicion of violating the city ordinance and then released with a citation to appear in court. A conviction carries at least a $100 fine.
The woman was wanted on a $30,000 warrant issued in Pasadena, said Savano.
The group apparently was aware of the permit requirement. One man had a business card from a Bay Area police department with a note written on the back — "you need a solicitor's permit," said Savano.
The topic of aggressive door-to-door salesmen had become a neighborhood conversation in parts of Petaluma.
Vicki McAffee said she was told by a neighbor more than a week ago to be alert. "She told me .<TH>.<TH>. these people are going around, very pushy, asking for money," said McAffee.
Marjorie McAuley said the issue arose at a neighborhood bridge game and when she put the topic out to neighbors on social media, she heard from more people with their own experiences.
One woman described a man who recently come to her door trying to sell magazine subscriptions before switching to a plea for money. "He blatantly asked for money for hard times," McAuley said the woman told her.
One resident also reported giving $100 to one of the solicitors for a charity fighting hunger and then worried whether it had been a legitimate donation, police said.