A magazine subscription sales crew is raising the hackles of Omaha residents, including some who are getting police involved.
Steve Kalhorn, who lives in the Memorial Park neighborhood, said unlicensed magazine salespeople have approached him four times in the past three weeks. He and several neighbors called 911 last week about the soliciting, and police arrested a 22-year-old Detroit man.
Douglas County Court records show the man, who works for Opportunity Inc. of Memphis, Tenn., spent three days in jail for peddling without a license. The same man spent one day in jail in August for the same offense.
“I'm just tired of seeing these guys in our neighborhood,” Kalhorn said. “If you don't buy from them, they get real belligerent.”
Bridget Fitzpatrick, a crime prevention specialist for the Omaha Police Department's northwest precinct, said there are “about 50 to 60” magazine salespeople operating in Omaha right now. She praised Kalhorn and his neighbors for warning each other about the unlicensed peddlers via the Internet.
“Their Neighborhood Watch group did so well communicating with each other and the Police Department, and that's how we became aware of this group,” Fitzpatrick said. “Then we realized they were operating in neighborhoods all over Omaha.”
Fitzpatrick said she spoke with a supervisor for Opportunity Inc. and was told the company had no intention of following the city ordinance requiring a peddler's license for each salesperson. Calls to the supervisor Wednesday went unanswered.
Omaha City Prosecutor David Smallheiser said that he didn't have any figures on recent arrests but that he expects “anyone selling without a license to be jailed.”
The permits and inspections division of the Omaha Planning Department issues peddling licenses. The licenses must be shown upon request, and information on them includes the name of the company, the name of the salesperson and the official seal of the City of Omaha.
The cost of a peddler's license is $15 per week, $30 per month or $50 for six months. Smallheiser said he finds it “very odd” that the magazine company doesn't plan to comply.
“Every summer, it's not unusual to find crews coming through here selling magazines,” Smallheiser said. “What's surprising is that most people respond to a simple request to get a permit, but this company has chosen not to do that.”
The Better Business Bureau has given Opportunity Inc. an F rating and sent out several warnings about their business practices. Jim Hegarty, president of the BBB serving southwest Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota and the Kansas plains, said it is “a classic example” of a company not to be trusted.
“Our F rating is the biggest red flag we can raise,” Hegarty said. “If someone is taken in by these people, it's pretty likely they will never get their magazines.”