What To Do When a Stranger Comes to Your Front Door
Solicitors (or other strangers) coming to your front door can be an uncomfortable experience. While more often than not they are not criminals and are merely trying to sell you something (though for-profit solicitation in Palo Alto requires a permit from the Police Department, which we very rarely issue - see below for more), they occasionally are residential burglars using the solicitation as a ruse simply to find out if your home is occupied or unoccupied. Burglars do not desire confrontations or witnesses, so they are only interested in breaking into homes that are not occupied. If they knock at the door or ring the doorbell and no one answers, that is a good sign that no one is home, and they may then try to break into your home.
The best way to prevent this from happening is to acknowledge you are home by talking to them through the front door without opening it. This lets them know that the home is occupied. You should never open your door to a person you are not expecting; service representatives, after all, should have appointments and not simply show up at your door with no prior warning.
Ask the person through the door what they need. If they are trying to sell you something, tell them you are not interested. If they continue to be persistent, even after you tell them to leave, let them know you'll be calling the police and then call our 24-hour dispatch center at (650) 329-2413. If possible, provide a description of the person and direction of travel to help our officers locate them.
Legitimate Solicitors Must Have a Permit from the Police Department
Legitimate door-to-door for-profit solicitors must be in possession of a permit issued by the Palo Alto Police Department (see sample permit below), and they are required to show it to you upon demand (through a window or peephole; remember, we do not recommend opening your door to strangers). Our Department issues very few such permits. Should a solicitor come to your door and not be able to produce a permit upon demand, then call our 24-hour dispatch center at (650) 329-2413. If possible, provide a description of the person and direction of travel to help our officers locate them. Officers will verify if they have a valid permit or not; for-profit solicitation without a permit can result in a misdemeanor citation for violating the Palo Alto Municipal Code.