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10 Things Police Wish You Knew about Answering the Doorbell

If you don’t read the whole post, please at least read this first bit:

This post is rather out of character for my blog, but I felt the tips our local police provided were something all people should really know.

So many break-ins happen during the day when crooks think people aren’t home. They’ll ring the bell or knock, and if no one responds, kick in the door.

My advice is DON’T BE SILENT. Respond firmly from behind the locked door. “WE aren’t interested!” implying more than one person is home.

Don’t engage in further conversation, and if they don’t leave tell them you’re calling 9-1-1… and do. Err on the side of being too cautious.

Trust your instincts… and please be safe.

I sometimes wonder if I’m overreacting or being an overprotective parent & husband. Especially in my response what appears to be an increase in crime, especially home break-ins. Maybe it’s our increased interconnection via social media and speed with news travels these days, but it seems worse than when I was a kid. What do you think?

I received some tips via a neighbor today, concerning how to handle people that come to your door. The tips were provided by our local police department, and I thought they made a lot of sense. I’ve always maintained that if you’re home alone and/or with your kids, don’t open the door if you don’t know who it is. Am I being too overprotective?

Stranger knocking at door or ringing your bellMaybe it’s just a girl scout selling cookies or a neighbor you don’t know locked out of their house? Honestly, it may be unchristian of me, but I don’t want my family to take the chance and open the door. I recommend shouting through the locked door, “We’re not interested!” The worst thing would be to make it appear no one was home by being silent!

And it’s that time of the year, when door-to-door solicitations begin to occur more frequently. School fundraisers, Girl Scout cookie sales, and youth sports group fundraisers are just a few of the more common neighborhood solicitations. But how do you know when you should or shouldn’t answer the door? And what’s legitimate or not?

Door-to-Door Solicitation Do’s and Don’ts

  • If you don’t feel comfortable or don’t want to answer the door, then don’t. Tell them you are not interested through the door.
  • If you are unsure if a solicitor is legitimate, ask for identification verifying that they are employed by the company they claim to work for. If they don’t have any I.D., don’t give them any money and tell them to leave.
  • Ask to see a solicitor’s license. City ordinance requires a license for persons engaging in door-to-door selling. The license should be carried by the salesperson and shall be submitted to any police officer or citizen for examination upon request. Police Records handles the application process and issues the license.
  • Door-to-door selling is prohibited (where we live), by City ordinance, after 8 p.m. unless there is a prior invitation from the occupant of said private residence.
  • If a solicitor refuses to leave after being asked to, or becomes irate, shut the door. If they still don’t leave, call 911.
  • If you don’t feel comfortable giving the solicitor any money DON’T! Do not let anyone “guilt” you into giving them money or buying their product.
  • Do not believe stories such as “I live in your neighborhood”, or “My car is broken down just around the corner.” If you don’t recognize this person as one of your neighbors, they’re probably not. If their car is truly broken down, offer to call 911 for them.
  • At no time should you let any of these people in your house! Not even to use the phone.

It’s important to listen to your “gut feeling” and don’t do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable. Door-to-door solicitation is not against the law as long as solicitors follow the law and City ordinances.

Residents who don’t want any type of solicitation on their property are encouraged to post a “No Soliciting” sign near the doorbell or in plain sight at the front door to indicate that solicitations are not welcome.

  • And remember; when in doubt always call 9-1-1.

So, am I overreacting?

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  1. zoie027

    I kinda find the post funny. :) But this can help to prevent unwanted visitors. Thank for sharing!

    1. Michael Schmid

      I actually thought perhaps I was being too serious? Hopefully people will at least read the first couple of sentences that I just added, in case the long post scares them away. If it saves one family from a home invasion it was worth it to write this. Thanks.

  2. Shannon

    I think this is so important- especially for people that are home alone or feel vulnerable as seniors- because so many people think its better to not answer. But letting someone know you are actually home- but not opening the door is the best thing to do.

    And I bet a LOT of people dont know! Great post.

    1. Michael Schmid

      Thank you so much for your comment, Shannon. I just added a blurb at the beginning asking people to at least read that part. This post is a bit out of character for blog, but honestly if it saves one family from a home invasion it will be worth it. Thanks again, Shannon!

  3. Julie

    Thanks for these useful tips, my neighbors were robbed last week while we were on a ski vacation. It could have happened to us, too. I was totally shocked, but from now on, We’ll make some changes according to your tips.

    1. Michael Schmid

      I’m sorry to hear of your neighbors break-in. That can be terribly unsettling. At least they are okay? My greatest fear is someone hurting my family when I’m not there. That’s why I shared these tips. And really, it applies to guys, too, of course. Hope it helps.

  4. OneMommy

    Thank you for sharing this with your readers/twitter followers. My father had something similar happen a few years ago with a pair who came and said their car had broken down. Thankfully he thought they were suspicious and asked them to leave. He actually saw them try a few other homes before they got in their car and drove away.

    When it comes to your family being over protective is better than putting yourself and family in harm’s way.

    1. Michael Schmid

      You are so very welcome. It’s really scary stuff. I’m glad your dad trusted his instincts. I agree, it’s better to err on the side of caution. Thanks for your comment!

  5. Cammile Mailhot

    These tips are not out of place and they ought to be at every blog. These are great tips and I think I will share this link with all my friends so that they do not fall into the trap of any thieves. Thank you very much for educating everyone around you.

    1. Michael Schmid

      Thank you. I hope they prove helpful, Cammile. Well, really I hope no one needs to use them, but that’s probably not realistic?

  6. Arline

    thanks for the useful tips you share in here..Its really important specially to me because I’m only one in the house..

    1. Michael Schmid

      Be safe. Oh, and it might be better not to post that you are home alone on the Internet.

  7. Chiana

    The modern video security systems are additionally equipped with door bell answering capabilities as well. If the person is not welcome, the system answers your voice-recorded message and handles the situation on its own.

    1. Michael Schmid

      That’s a cool idea. A neighbor is installing a bunch of cameras. I didn’t know there was a way of delivering a prerecorded message. I like that as it can be in a male voice, which (right or wrong) is likely to be taken more seriously by a burglar. In fact a big dog (like ours) barking at the same time on the recording might give it added effect.

  8. Samantha Gluck

    I had a bad experience recently with one of those magazine salespeople that have been in trouble and are supposedly trying to better themselves by holding down a job….or whatever.

    The kids were home from school, Dragonslayer was working late, and I was finishing up on a deadline magazine story before starting dinner.

    The doorbell rang and I asked my 14 year old boy to answer it, since I was in ultra-get-finished mode. When he started his protracted spiel about his magazines (which are at least 4 times the regular price, by the way), I called from my office to my son and told him to let the man know that my husband wasn’t home yet and he made those decisions (I know, naive, gullible, stupid, etc.).

    The guy would NOT leave and he started talking about me, my blonde hair, how he saw me outside earlier in the front garden, etc. Poor Iain kept trying to shut the door, but the guy stuck his foot in the door jamb.

    I crawled under my desk and tried to text Dragonslayer, but he was busy in a meeting. The guy started to INSIST he talk to me and that I come to the door. DS had received my distressed texts and rushed home…he was at the light a block away just as the guy tried to force his way in. I had no choice, but to pull out my side arm. The guy ran off and DS got home just after.

    Needless to say, I got scolded. :-(

    1. Michael Schmid

      What a terribly scary experience for both you and your boy. I hope your son is feeling okay about it? That had to be tough on him. Thankfully this was a live and learn situation. I’m so happy you all are alright.

      Knowing you, I’m certain your competence and comfort with a handgun is greater than most readers of this post. I’d never recommend a gun unless one is very comfortable with them, and is fully prepared to use it. Scary in your situation, as your boy might have been between you and the target

      I grew up partly on a farm (what some call a ranch) in Texas and am quite proficient with guns, but always caution others about their prudent use. Perhaps I’ll write about that sometime. Clearly, the best situation is to avoid the need to pull it out, as you well know.

      Again, I’m so happy you all are okay. Very, very frightening. And avoiding this kind of situation is exactly why I posted such a serious blog. Thanks for sharing that, Samantha.

  9. Barbara L

    I was given an unusual bit of advice several years ago that seems to actually work rather well. I look out the “peep” hole and see who is there. Sometimes, it is obvious it is okay to just not answer. Assuming it is not one of the obvious situations instead of yelling through the door the security guy told me to hit the door, hard. Just bam it with an open hand to make a loud noise. This usually has the added bonus of making the dog bark a lot but the person knows a human made the noise. If it is a harmless stray visitor they will probably think you are nuts and leave. If they are not so harmless it will probably startle them into leaving. If they are die hard rotten axe murdering thieves, well they are going to come in anyway but you may have bought time to run out the back door.

    1. Michael Schmid

      That’s a really good suggestion, that I certainly had not thought of, Barbara. If done hard & loud enough that just might do the trick. It has the added benefit of not betraying anything about the person on the inside except that you are home (and possibly unstable). 😉 Thanks so much for sharing this, Barbara!

  10. Crystal

    Thank you for linking up this wonderful post in Mommy Solutions last week! Congrats on being my #4 most clicked link! That is wonderful! I’m featuring you on my blog post for the new link up … and of course it gets posted on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest!

    Have a super week and stop on over and link up something else. I love reading your blog.

    http://www.crystalandcomp.com/2012/02/the-mommy-club-share-your-resources-and-solutions-33

    Crystal

    1. Michael Schmid

      Thank you so much, Crystal! I do love yours and Shannon’s linkups! Hope you are having a super week? Very busy, but we are otherwise well here. :)

  11. Marcus

    You have provided me with valuable information and advice.

    1. Michael Schmid

      Thank you, Marcus. I’m happy to help.

  12. Shannon

    I’m a little late reading this, but I find it to be a great insightful post. Very important for all to read and be informed! Good tips. I personnally despise unexpected guests, solicitors, and just plain doorbell rings! I am the person that does not answer the door until I’ve inspected thoroughly out the window! LOL!

    Thanks again for this post!

    1. Michael Schmid

      Thank you so much, Shannon. I just saw your comment… sorry. Not answering the door is a good instinct, though I’d be sure to let them know the house is not unoccupied. Hope your summer is going great so far!

  13. Susan

    I’m a firm believer in not opening the door unless I look out the window and know who is out there. There’s no way I would open my door to a possible solicitor. There’s nothing I need to buy from someone going door-to-door. I appreciate your article, and no, you’re not overreacting. Better safe than sorry!

    I also taught my children (now grown) that they are to approach their locked vehicles with their car key in hand, check the backseat and floor in the ceiling light that goes on when they unlock the door (they are not to get into their car if the ceiling light is out), and immediately lock the car door as soon as they get inside. Then they can start the car, put on their seat belt, and check their gauges. If the car has been tampered with, they can call the police.

    They have also been told not to enter their vehicle if any kind of van is parked on the driver’s side of their car, even if the van’s doors are closed and it appears that there is no one inside. Even in populated parking lots, people have been grabbed from behind and pulled into vans. You can enter your car from the passenger side. Yes, it’s awkward to crawl into your seat, but better to do that than to put yourself in harm’s way.

    1. Michael Schmid

      Really, really super advice about car safety. I’m going to summarize your points below, as I believe they can save lives. Thank you for sharing this, Susan. I would add that asking someone to escort you to your car (many grocery stores will do this… and I’d ask mall security as well, especially during the crowded Christmas season). Never be embarrassed or think you are being “silly”.

      • Have the car key in hand before approaching ones car
      • Check backseat and floor via ceiling light before entering
      • If the ceiling light is out, don’t get in. Lock and leave.
      • If there’s any sign of tampering, again lock and leave.
      • Don’t get into a car if van is parked on drivers side.
      • (see the comment above for more details on these)

  14. Crystal

    Congrats, Michael! Your informative post was picked as my bonus feature this week because it is such a wonderful resource. Thanks for sharing and linking up in The Mommy Club.

    Stop over and see your feature: http://www.crystalandcomp.com/2012/10/the-mommy-club-share-your-resources-and-solutions-66/

    and feel free to share more ideas in the new linky!

    Have a super week, Crystal

    1. Michael Schmid

      Thank you so much, Crystal. I hope your week has been going super? My wife and our four-year-old daughter made my birthday weekend wonderfully special. I will definitely stop back by. Have a good weekend!

  15. Our Mom Spot

    Thanks for posting about this very important topic.

    1. Michael Schmid

      Thanks for dropping by. I’ll try to spend some time on your forum when I get the chance. Yes, this is an important topic, which is why I stepped slightly out of the normal character of adaddyblog.com’s posts to share this information with our readers. Have a safe and Happy New Year!

    1. Michael Schmid

      Thanks for the pin, Katherine. It’s an important topic. I hope everyone has a super safe and happy weekend!

      Concerning the pin: Right back at ya. :) I just pinned: http://pinterest.com/pin/79938962107814621/

  16. Julie @ nextlifenokids

    Thanks Michael,

    These tips are really helpful. It’s really sad that we should have to dial 9-1-1 and be ready to send when opening our front doors. People suck.

    1. Michael Schmid

      I know, Julie. Sometimes I wonder why things seem to have changed so much. As a kid, I’m sure I was told not to open the door to strangers, but now things seem so much more dangerous?

      1. Julie @ nextlifenokids

        Yup, I feel like the danger is closer to home now. I remember being told not to talk to strangers, but I don’t remember many of them coming into our neighborhood. Things have changed. :(

        1. Michael Schmid

          My neighborhood is considering a complete ban of door to door soliciting. We’re not gated or anything like that, but if we all don’t allow door-to-door solicitation, burglars would stand out more as strangers in the neighborhood, and hopefully will move on. I stopped a stranger on the street the other day. Turns out he was a very nice business man (from a business a few blocks from here). I was very nice, just asked if he needed directions. He was walking for exercise. I told him sorry for bugging him and that I’d see him again. I’m not recommending stopping strangers, but rather reporting anything suspicious to the police, but he was walking right past my house, and I get a bit protective (politely) sometimes.

  17. Ana B.

    No you’re not. I fully agree and thank you for these tips. I’ll post this link to my FB page if you don’t mind! These are things that people need to know. You’d be amazed at how many DON’T!

    1. Michael Schmid

      Hi, Ana. Please do share this with your friends and family if you wish. I got it from my local police department and then added a few other thoughts. If it saves one person it was worth my posting it. On an unrelated note, my blog hosting company is having problems so I appreciate the effort it probably took to leave this comment while it was running so slow. Hopefully it will be fixed soon.

  18. Frank

    I once had a neighbor who would never answer the door if she wasn’t expecting someone. Even if you saw her go inside and then 30 seconds later ring the doorbell she would not answer. Many times you could hear her talking inside, footsteps, lights, tv, etc. She just didn’t care, and rightfully so, presumably so strangers would not really know if anyone was home. Anyway, i started doing the same thing.

    1. Michael Schmid

      The only thing I’d suggest is doing something that DOES give let the person knocking on the door know someone is home. The point being, it may deter someone who is looking for an empty home to rob.

  19. Bette

    I’m glad I found your blog. We lived in a gated community for more than 40 years and recently purchased a home with no gate. It is nice not having the homeowners association dues but disturbing getting people coming to the door wanting us to buy something. Our new home has a solid wood door and a panel of small beveled windows on each side of the door making it impossible for us to see who is at the door without looking out one of those windows. Being a polite person I never considered just talking through the door and saying we do not open the door to strangers but will certainly do so in the future. We had considered covering the windows with curtains so that the people outside could not see us. Thank you for your advice.

    1. Michael Schmid

      Hi Bette. Yes, it’s better to be safe than sorry. One thing our neighborhood did was purchase a large quantity of “no solicitation” signs on posts that we’ve put near our doors. By getting large percentage to join it, it basically makes anyone who doesn’t belong in our neighborhood stand out. We’re very friendly and welcoming (annual neighborhood Easter egg hunts and all), but with crime what it is, sadly we need to be careful.

    2. Annie

      There’s a doorbell you can get called Ring, that is also a camera. It syncs to your phone and records whoever comes to your door. You can even answer the door from your phone if you want. It’s very reassuring and works great.

      1. Michael Schmid

        Have you used “Ring”? I’ve seen the commercial and wondered how people liked it. And wondered if people who intended to do wrong might simply bang on the door and never touch the device with the camera? They probably see the commercials, too. I guess if it turned on and started recording upon sensing someone at the door (regardless if they push that button), and saved that recording someplace that might be good. Not sure if it does that, though, so perhaps a security camera and dvr with an internet connection might be an alternative. Not as simple, though? Thanks again for your comments, Annie.

  20. Justin

    I read this and thought I’d let you know that the “No Soliciting” sign might of worked in the 1950’s but does not deter professional salesmen who go door to door. They tend to think a person with this type of sign has a spending problem and will buy basically anything. I’m not joking.

    1. Michael Schmid

      Wow, really? Guess I still live in a Leave it to Beaver world. :( That’s a shame. Hopefully in our case it may still help. If anyone enters our neighborhood the signs have the neighborhood’s name and logo on each… and is in front of every house. Thanks for your thoughts, Justin!

  21. Michelle

    You are NOT overreacting. I was 6mo preg. w twins and sick as a dog w stomach flu. Nearly didn’t answer the door for a guy in a hooded sweatshirt at noon “looking for his dog.” I talked to him through a locked storm door and told him he didn’t want this flu- minutes later he broke into my neighbor’s house. Bold, but true. If I’d stayed in bed, I shudder to think what could have happened. Your advice is so sound!

    1. Michael Schmid

      Thanks for backing me up on this, Michelle. I’m sorry you went through that, but happy you and the two babies-on-board are safe and sound. It’s better to be safe. The police recently talked about this on our neighborhood forum. Even the person at the door seems genuine, offer to make a call for them, but don’t open the door. The police also said to say your husband or daddy is in bed if asked if he is home are home. I even know a woman who lives alone who bought a pair of size 12 work-boots at the thrift shop and leaves them by the door next to a monster sized dog bowl. She doesn’t have a dog and lives alone.

  22. Annie

    The biggest thing that struck me about your blog was how it made you feel unchristian to consider your own safety when dealing with people at your door. It’s sad but the “that’s not very christian” line gets so many people into situations that are bad for them because it overrides their basic gut instinct. Never being kind to someone against your better judgement. And never let the ‘ that’s unchristian’ thought stop you from making decisions that keep you safe. No matter if the other person judges you harshly for it.

    1. Michael Schmid

      Thank you, Annie. Yeah, it’s easier for me to tell my family not to open the door, to keep them safe. It’s harder for me sometimes to follow my own advice.

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