Putting a stop to knocking in Toms River

TOMS RIVER, N.J. - October 13, 2011

"There's no ID and it's something that, as a group we don't know about," said Oilda Betancourt. "They're just carrying a piece of paper with a pen and accepting donations."

 Residents say some of those going door-to-door are being dropped of by vans and, while they're permitted to solicit until 9:00 p.m., residents don't want them knocking after dark.

  "Strangers in the neighborhood, you don't know what's going on," said Mike Betancourt. "It could be somebody scoping out the house trying to break in, you never know."

  Police have gotten complaints about trespassing, intoxication and that some of those soliciting are as young as 10 years old.

  "Unsupervised kids walking around the neighborhood that young? I would say no," said David Schiabor.

This is a sensitive issue in Toms River. Back in 2004 Shirley Reuter, a 77-year-old widow, was brutally beaten and stabbed by a 17-year-old door-to-door magazine salesman Azriel Bridge.

  "You're wary of strangers anyway but strangers trying to sell? The first thing that pops into my head is that old lady," said Bart Goble.

Toms River has a no-knock law requiring organizations to register before soliciting and it also offers residents who don't want to be disturbed green "no-knock" stickers for their doors.

"If I want something I'll go out and find it myself. I don't need anyone coming to the door," said one resident named Erica who did not want to give her last name.

Complaints to police have focused on two groups: The New Jersey Youth Club of Newark, which did not return phone calls from Action News, and The New Jersey Environmental Federation. Its spokesman says canvassers are respectful and door to door visits are how they get members and money.

The police chief says it's against the law to knock at a house with the no-knock sticker.

  "Someone will call us and we'll find out they do have a no-knock sticker and they are registered. Then we have to ID the person who actually went on to the property and violated the ordinance," said Chief Mike Mastronardy.

Police say they are actively investigating these complaints and may cite the individual organizations for violating the no-knock law.

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