By James Devine
If there is a wave of crime sweeping over Rahway, there has been precious little said about it, but I can devise a number of ways to curb fraud without encroaching on the right of the people to peaceably assemble and petition for the redress of grievances.
For years, I have helped expose homeowner scams. I have worked closely with the police to make sure people know how shady operators prey on unaware seniors, single moms, new residents and others. Often, their victims are among those who can least afford to be robbed, although sometimes the promise of quick cash kindles the greed that lures in easy marks.
Common sense is the best way to combat con artists and their confidence schemes. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If someone you do not know is pressuring you to lay out some cash, take a moment to summon police and assure there is nothing illegal about the transaction.
It is illegal to steal whether you do it at the point of a gun, distraction and trickery or by beguiling an unsuspecting patsy. We do not need laws to stop people from doing good deeds and more costly regulation will not prevent crooks from taking advantage of our neighbors.
Requiring charities to apply for a permit to exercise their Constitutional rights to ask people to donate money is un-American.
It is insulting to charge $25 from the good and kind people who volunteer before a single donor opens his heart. During 1988-89, I worked for a group called the New Jersey Environmental Federation, which fights to protect clean water. We canvassed residents in their neighborhoods, told them who we were, what we do, why we are here right now and what we want.
We brought information to people who were unaware of certain threats to their health and economic well being. We offered them a chance to contact elected leaders about a current issue of urgent importance. We invited them to join as members so they could get our newsletter and remain aware of environmental protection activities. We asked them to help continue our fight by making a contribution on the spot and continuing to support our work over time.
When civic organizations sweep into town, invite them to check in with the local police so authorities are aware of what they are doing and where they will be. If you want, you might ask them to wear some sort of ID badge revealing their group. Cooperation is a good thing that works for everyone.
There is no good from imposing an unfair, illegal tax on citizens who want to make life better for people. And creating a problem for one group does not always solve a problem for another. This kind of knee-jerk legislating will not stop scammers but it makes America less free and deprives our neighbors of their community.
I felt compelled to write this after reading about a proposal to require permits for door to door canvassers. There are volumes that address this kind of short-sited legislating and the unintended consequences of deviating from traditional democratic values. I can almost certainly assure that the ACLU would be called to argue that there are constitutional defects in this ordinance and someone would be prompted to file suit against Rahway for violating their rights as an American.
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