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University turns away solicitors

Jan. 30, 1997

Department of Public Safety warns students

By Martha Roberts

Lariat Reporter

The start of a new semester has brought a new crop of solicitors to the University, hawking everything from subscriptions to tools. But according to Baylor Department of Public Safety and at least one student, some of those pushy salespeople knocking on your apartment door may be con artists.

According to Duncanville senior Aaron Westmoreland, a man claiming to represent the Houston Chronicle came to his door offering subscriptions. When Westmoreland said he would rather get another paper, the man said he could get it for him--and then asked for a check made out to himself.

'I wanted The (Dallas) Morning News,' Westmoreland said. '(The man) said they could get me The (Dallas) Morning News; then he took out the (subscription) vouchers and crossed out Houston Chronicle and wrote The Dallas Morning News.'

When the man told Westmoreland to write the check out to him instead of the newspaper, Westmoreland refused, and the man left. Westmoreland then called the Waco office of The Dallas Morning News to report the incident.

'The guy said, 'You didn't write out a check for them, did you?'' Westmoreland said.

Westmoreland was told that The Dallas Morning News does not use door-to-door salespeople. Students can only buy subscriptions to the paper at a table in front of the Baylor Bookstore.

The distributor also told Westmoreland that the paper is investigating two men for subscription fraud. The paper is also working with the Houston Chronicle to track down money paid to the two men. According to Westmoreland, the distributor said that all fraudulent subscriptions sold will be honored.

The man who approached Westmoreland gave his name as Shawn Musick. He is described as Caucasian, 5 feet 10 to 5 feet 11 inches tall, with a medium build and shoulder length, stringy brown hair and brown eyes. He was last seen wearing a baseball hat and a brown jacket. A man with the last name Dupree may be involved, Westmoreland warned.

According to Chief Jim Doak of the Baylor Department of Public Safety, the beginning of the semester is when the number of soliciting complaints increases.

'They will just prey upon the students,' Doak said. The Baylor Police have posted 'no solicitors' signs on the dormitories and the Quadrangle Apartments and have issued warnings to solicitors found on campus. Solicitors are required to sign a card acknowledging the warning; if caught on campus again, they are charged with criminal trespassing and can receive up to six months in the county jail.

Through December 1996, 50 warnings had been issued, almost double the 27 warnings issued for the same period last year. The Baylor Police arrested at least five solicitors in 1996.

Doak attributed the rise to increased student complaints in response to an aggressive awareness campaign.

'We make a bigger case of it,' Doak said. The Baylor Police warns students about solicitors when they first enter the University and at dorm orientations at the beginning of the year.

Though not all solicitors may be out to con students, they can be extremely aggressive, according to Latham Staples, a Fort Worth junior. Staples was basically held captive in his La Mirage apartment by one solicitor.

'These annoying people came by trying to sell magazines and pushed their way into my apartment,' Staples said. 'They finally left about 45 minutes later. It was a whole group of them ... they kept coming by all afternoon.'

Lori Lenarduzzi, an Alvin senior who also lives in La Mirage, has also had bad experiences with solicitors. A man from the Houston Chronicle refused to leave when she asked, Lenarduzzi said.

'They are very rude and very unprofessional,' Lenarduzzi said. 'I know that there are Baylor graduates at the Houston Chronicle, and if they only knew they would be very mad.'

Joe Black, owner of University Rentals Apartments, called solicitors one of his 'pet peeves.'

'We do not condone or allow solicitors on our property,' Black said.

'(Solicitors) can go anyplace north, south, east or west of Baylor, but they're not welcome here,' Doak said.

Distributors for the Houston Chronicle and The Dallas Morning News were unavailable for comment.

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