KNOCKING OUT KNOCKING

no-knock2

If Red Bank passes a ‘No Knock’ ordinance, signs like this, on Broad Street, won’t be needed. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

It’s a scenario almost any homeowner or renter has been through at least once: The doorbell rings, you answer and there’s a smarmy stranger on the porch trying to sell you a magazine subscription or convert you to a new religion.

These visits tend to be unwanted, and Red Bank Mayor Pasquale Menna intends to do something about them.

At his urging, the borough council is considering an ordinance that would prohibit peddlers, solicitors and any other group or organization that can be constitutionally included from making visits to homes that are on a “do not knock” list.

The system works much like the national “do not call” list that keeps telemarketers from interrupting dinner or tying up your phone line. Except this would apply to your home and be enforced locally, Menna said.

The borough already has an ordinance that requires businesses and organizations to register with police before they start going door-to-door, Menna said. With this new ordinance in place, those people would be prohibited from stopping at homes on the list. Violators would face “a rather stiff” fine, Menna said.

The idea came about after a number of people in town  expressed concerns to Menna that they were being disturbed by people ringing their doorbell trying to push a product. He also said elderly and single people living alone have felt unsafe with strangers knocking at their doors, especially after dark.

To Menna, it makes as much sense as the “do not call” list. It accomplishes two goals, he said: To allow more privacy in a person’s home and to ensure a certain level of safety.

“We owe it to our residents to give them the same amount of privacy protection and safety protection as we constitutionally can,” he said.

Other towns in the state, including Woodbridge and Plainfield, have already passed this type of ordinance. Menna said the borough will examine all these towns’ ordinances and shape Red Bank’s from them.

“It’s going to be a little bit from everybody,” he said. “You take the best of a number of them.”

It needs to be determined who and what organizations would constitutionally be exempt from the list, Menna said. It’s likely that charitable organizations, religious institutions and, yes, politicians on the stump, would be exempt, he said.

“I wish it would include politicians,” he said. “I don’t like to interrupt people while they’re having dinner.”

If passed, Menna believes Red Bank would be the first in Monmouth County to pass such an ordinance. Since bringing the idea up at last week’s council meeting, it has already gained a lot of attention.

Menna said he’s given at least four interviews to television and radio stations about Red Bank’s proposal, and neighboring towns have reached out to borough officials to keep track of how the process goes.

“There has been a tremendous amount of interest,” Menna said.

An ordinance may be ready for introduction at Monday’s council meeting, but if not, Menna said further discussion on the topic is likely.

At first blush, it seems to have support of the council, Menna said.

“Our residents deserve a certain sense of privacy. If we can provide it to them, I think we’ve done something,” he said.