Bound Brook teens were asked to stop shoveling snow for residents because it is against the New Jersey town’s ordinance, USA Today reports on Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2014. Police Chief Michael Jannone said that a resident reported a suspicious person. That’s when officers spotted Matt Molinari and Eric Schnepf handing out fliers during the winter storm on Monday night.
The two enterprising teens, who were looking to make some money shoveling snow, were told by police to stop. Jannone says the officer told the teens it wasn’t safe to be out after a state of emergency was declared. The chief says the officer’s concern was about their safety and not that they weren’t licensed to solicit business.
The teens managed to line up five jobs, earning $25 to $40 a house. The story was shared on a popular Bound Brook Facebook group by a resident who saw Schnepf being questioned by police after coming to his door. Some residents are in disbelief.
“Are you kidding me? Our generation does nothing but complain about his generation being lazy and not working for their money,” he wrote on Bound Brook NJ Events’ page. “Here’s a couple kids who take the time to print up flyers, walk door to door in the snow, and then shovel snow for some spending money. And someone calls the cops and they’re told to stop?”
Members of the group responded with support for the young entrepreneurs. Bound Brook, like many municipalities in the state and country, has a law against unlicensed solicitors and peddlers. Despite the rule, however, Police Chief Michael Jannone said the two young businessmen were not arrested or issued a ticket, and that the police’s concern was about them being outside during dangerous conditions, not that they were unlicensed, according to My Central Jersey.
“We don’t make the laws but we have to uphold them,” he said Tuesday after reading some of the online comments about the incident. “This was a state of emergency. Nobody was supposed to be out on the road.”
The teens took the incident in stride and said that police told them that they only needed permission to go door to door, but were still allowed to shovel walkways if residents called them.
“The cops were nice about it. They weren’t jerks. They were trying to make sure everything is OK,” Molinari said Tuesday.
In this borough, anyone selling goods and services door to door must apply for a license that can cost as much as $450 for permission that is valid for only 180 days. Nonprofits are exempt from the fee but must still apply for a permit.
Similar bans around the country have put the kibosh on other capitalist rites of passage, such as lemonade stands and selling Girl Scouts cookies. Such laws have been challenged elsewhere on the grounds that they violate the First Amendment right to free speech. The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, for example, is suing New Brunswick over a similar law that prohibits panhandling and begging.
The Bound Brook ordinance does not apply to people going door to door for political reasons or to volunteer firefighters or real estate and insurance salesmen licensed by the state.
Jannone said an officer was dispatched to the street because a resident called to report a “suspicious person” with curly blond hair and a hoodie who was walking through yards.
A responding officer told the young men that it wasn’t safe to be out and to come back during the day. Jannone said his department has no interest in cracking down on kids who want to shovel sidewalks or driveways. The law was made for transient scam artists who prey on the vulnerable, he said.
“The spirit of the ordinance is to protect residents from gypsy activity. People will solicit door to door and target the elderly and get into their house,” he said.Are gypsy’s a problem in NJ?
Janonne said the fliers that the two young men were handing out had their first names and cell phone numbers, notes News Max. “People doing something illegal probably won’t extend this much identifying information,” he said. “We don’t really bargain,” Schnepf said. “We help some people out and get whatever they’re willing to pay.”