Law enforcement warns of solicitors

robert barnes


Glendale police recently arrested a man in Montrose for soliciting for charity under false pretenses.

On Feb. 10, Robert Atlee Barnes, 21, of Texas allegedly used a variety of approaches with different residents to obtain money.

Since then more arrests of solicitors have been made in the area.

Police warn that there has been a recent increase of door-to-door solicitations in the city, particularly in La Crescenta and the Glendale annex area. One scenario is that a solicitor may pose as a student trying to raise funds for some organization.

Another story is that they are selling magazine subscriptions that will be sent to military personnel in Iraq, said Sgt. Tom Lorenz.

Legitimate solicitors operating in Glendale are required to get a permit from the city clerk’s office.

“When [organizations or individuals] apply for a permit they don’t just walk in and pay for it. The [completed] application comes to the police department. It passes over my desk,” Lorenz said.

He reviews the permit to determine if those who are applying are a possible threat to the community.

“We take solicitors very seriously in Glendale,” he added.

Officials said that those who are illegally soliciting might do so not only to collect money from residents but also to gain knowledge of a homeowner’s property like unattended vehicles or homes.

On Feb. 17 in the 2200 block of Richey Drive in La Cañada Flintridge, a homeowner reported his cellphone had been stolen from his front porch after it was delivered by a mail service. The homeowner had a surveillance camera that captured two men as they walked up to his door and knocked. They picked up the package, put it down and knocked on the door again. When no one answered, they picked up the package apparently containing the cellphone and left. At that same time a neighbor reported the same two men had come to his door selling magazines and soliciting donations for military troops.

“The men matched the description that was given to us by Glendale [police department] earlier of two men soliciting in the area,” said Sgt. Ray Harley of the CV Sheriff’s Station.

“They are con artists,” said Craig Tweedy, training agent for the Glendale Police Department.

He has spoken to several residents who have been approached by those soliciting in the area.

One of the recent arrests was of the manager of a larger group who appears to be working the area. Groups usually made up of young adults travel the country using a variety of scenarios to raise money.

“They stay at these hotel rooms in Los Angeles, a dozen or so kids all from out of state,” Tweedy said. “They are con artists.”

He added the trouble is not just that they are soliciting for organizations under false pretenses but can also victimize residents through crimes of opportunity, like the cellphone being taken.

“Also if you write a check now they have your information. They have your routing number and can clean out your bank account,” Tweedy said.

Solicitors and advertisers that leave material at homes are required to have a city permit. Religious and non-profit organizations are allowed to distribute materials with a permit but are not allowed to seek donations or sell products.

If a solicitor contacts a resident, they are advised to ask for their organization identification or a letter of introduction as well as their city permit. If they cannot provide that information, close the door.