Home security systems can provide peace of mind to residents, but Kennewick police are urging citizens to be careful if someone knocks on the door trying to sell a security alarm.
Door-to-door sales of security systems are common this time of year, said Mike Blatman, Kennewick police's crime prevention specialist. The sales often are high pressured and require people to make on-the-spot decisions.
To help ensure the safety of residents, Kennewick requires that any door-to-door solicitors pitching security systems must get a solicitor's or alarm dealer license before they can work in Kennewick, he said.
The solicitor's license is required for any door-to-door sales, including magazine subscriptions, Blatman said. Pasco and Richland also require a business license permit for door-to-door sales.
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Kennewick, however, is the only city to require alarm dealers and installers to be licensed. Residents or businesses also must register their security systems.
"It's a big issue with companies that don't come in to get licensed. Some companies in the past have come into town, sell security systems for two or three days and then they leave," he said.
This year, the alarm sales people have arrived early -- applications for licenses started coming in Tuesday, Blatman told the Herald.
The license requirement in Kennewick helps residents know the people they are letting into their homes to sell and install security systems are legitimate.
"We've actually had people in the past who have had felony convictions and wanted to work in the security industry," he said. "Years and years ago we had a registered sex offender who was going door-to-door (selling security alarms)."
Blatman said that was back in the 1980s, but it spurred the city to require the licenses, which include background checks.
The alarm sales solicitors in Kennewick are issued a picture ID card, which Blatman said will be good through the end of 2012 if it was issued this year, so residents should check the expiration date.
Blatman said if someone shows up without a required license, "It's going to tell you something about the company they're working for because they're not following the rules and the laws."
It also should prompt residents to question if the company knows what they're doing and whether they'll be around to properly service the alarm system after installation.
Anyone with questions about security systems can call the crime prevention office at 582-1351 and get information about the business or about buying a system. Blatman can't tell people what system to buy, but he can provide information on different options available.
Residents should also remember that state law allows consumers to cancel a purchase within 72 hours for any reason.
And anyone deciding to get an alarm installed should be aware they could be charged for false alarms from their systems.
In Kennewick, the second false alarm in six months comes with a $50 fine. It's $75 for the third false alarm in six months and $100 for four or more.
In Pasco, a $25 fine is levied against residents who have three or more false alarms in a three-month period.
Richland's municipal code specifies a fee can be charged for false alarms for fire alarm systems after the second false alarm in a three-month period. It's not clear if that includes security alarm systems.