published Monday, January 14th, 2013

Mayor, Facebook helps nab suspicious peddlers

SOUTH PITTSBURG, Tenn. — For at least two months, two unmarked vans with Alabama license tags have been stopping at homes in South Pittsburg and other towns in Marion County, supposedly selling various goods and services.

One of the vans stopped at Mayor Jane Dawkins' house on a recent Sunday afternoon.

"They're very persistent," she said.

The group was selling cleaning supplies, she said, and they were adamant about coming into the house to demonstrate them.

After the group was finally convinced to leave, Dawkins and her husband followed the van around the neighborhood and eventually called police.

Officials said that van was stopped and its occupants were questioned and told not to come back to South Pittsburg.

Not long after, another van was spotted attempting to sell ADT alarm systems, and Dawkins said the occupant were just as persistent about entering the home.

ADT was contacted, and officials confirmed the second group was not affiliated with that company.

Dawkins said she started posting about the "saga" on Facebook to warn people about the suspicious peddlers.

"I just started getting inundated with people with similar experiences," she said. "They were especially persistent if there was not a man present at the house, and they actually did get into the homes of some of our senior citizens."

City Attorney Tracy Wooden said South Pittsburg has an ordinance forbidding such practices.

"There is an ordinance against peddlers and solicitors," he said. "We have an ordinance that restricts that. You've got to have a license."

The city will not issue licenses for such activities, Dawkins said.

Public Safety Director Dale Winters said both vans were stopped by police eventually, and both groups were issued citations for the ordinance violations.

Dawkins said communication among residents on Facebook was vital to shutting down the operation.

"I'm proud to say they were both cited, and yes, they were working together," she said. "Just by neighbors talking to each other and calling around and comparing notes, we found out that this was the same show going on. So, homeland security is alive and working in South Pittsburg."

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